Tuesday, June 28, 2005

and the poor just keep getting poorer

Another piece of the puzzle, again from California (no, they are definitely not the only state proposing cuts, just one of the ones with a very vocal grassroots advocacy organization). If the gov of CA is successful, monthly grants in CA will be reduced to pre-1989 levels. And before anyone suggests that people on welfare are living a life of luxury and leisure, note that the average welfare payment is only 55% of the federal poverty line, and 1996 polices generally require full-time work from the time the youngest child is 1 month old. If the recipient can't find a job, they are forced to do 'volunteer' work for the city/state, not for a salary, but for their welfare grant. They get no benefits, they are exempt from things like harassment policies (i.e. they can be sexually harassed and have no legal recourse), they are not eligible for earned income tax credit, and they don't pay into social security.

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POOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES PROTEST STATE BUDGET CUTS

Religious Leaders across California urge Arnold to Make Better, Moral Choices (San Francisco and Los Angeles)

Nearly 100 poor, disabled and elderly Californians marched on Governor Arnold Scwarzenegger's offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco this morning, to protest the Governor's proposed budget that targets low-income women and children rather than wealthy Californians to balance the budget deficit. The protestors delivered a statement, titled “A Call to Conscience,” signed by religious leaders from across California that urges the governor to make better, moral choices and reject further cuts to poor families.

In the statement, religious leaders declare, “A budget that asks the poorest among us to sacrifice, without seeking a fair share from those with abundance, is not a moral response to the challenges facing our state.” They go on to urge the “Governor and legislative leaders to reject further cuts to poor families. Instead, we call on our government for leadership in making better, moral choices on behalf of all Californians, through budget and tax policies that give expression to an ethic of justice and compassion.”

Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing harsh cuts in programs that support working women and men enrolled in CalWORKs, their children, and to services for the elderly, sick, and disabled. Under Schwarzenegger’s proposal, the average welfare cash benefits for a family of three in California will be reduced by $47/month from $723/month to $676/month – $18/month less than families received in 1989. The Governor also proposes to eliminate the annual state CalWORKs grant Cost of Living Adjustment forever, resulting in an average loss of $33/month starting in July 2005. Adjusted for inflation, $1 in benefits in 1989 is now only worth .62 cents.

To illustrate what the proposed welfare cuts will mean to their children, parents delivered bags of empty household items – toilet paper, deodorant, soap, shampoo, feminine products, light bulbs – that their families will be unable to afford if the governor cuts their grants by 6.5% and eliminates the annual Cost of Living Adjustment due next month.

According to Leilani Luia, LIFETIME member and mother of three, “Right now, after I pay my rent, I am only left with $14/month. If my CalWORKs grant is reduced by 6.5%, it will push my family and other California families like mine deeper into poverty and possibly into homelessness.” She continued, “I will find myself having to make tough decisions like keeping the lights on or taking my daughter to her much need counseling appointments. My family should not be the target of the governor’s balanced budget.”

Today, the average welfare cash grant is less than 55% of the poverty line. “The Governor wants to slash welfare benefits and eliminate Cost of Living Adjustments,” says LIFETIME Program Director Anita Rees, “even though welfare benefits are $18 lower than they were in 1989, when a gallon of milk only cost a dollar.”

The demonstrations today are part of a series of planned protests at the governor’s district offices across the state; LIFETIME’s next action is scheduled for Wednesday, June 29th in Fresno.

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(**not all states have a welfare COLA, in fact very few do. In many states, grants haven't been increased for 10+ years).

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