The War on the Disabled in Pennsylvania

In the last budget for Pennsylvania the Republican Legislature added a little extra to the budget. They completely eliminated the General Assistance Program. They have been trying to do this for seven years but Gov. Wolf vetoed any budget that included this elimination. This past year money was included for Medicaid to be paid to Pa. Hospitals and Gov. Wolf decided not to veto the bill. Eight years ago the Republicans did eliminate General Assistance and surprise, Tom Corbett (Republican) was the governor. The State Supreme Court reinstated General Assistance and the crazed Republicans have been trying to eliminate it ever since then.
Here are some details about General Assistance: it is (was) for unemployed adults with no minor children. An average payment came in around $200 a month and was used for medications, co-pays and purchase of food. Most of the recipients were disabled and were also in the process of applying for SSI. They had no other income and were not able to work. When SSI was granted the GA payment ceased. Fully two thirds of the recipients received money for less than a year. Some other recipients were displaced victims of domestic violence.
Here is what two Republican legislators said about eliminating GA. One was concerned that the program was rife with “Fraud and abuse.” Proponents of the program state that there is no substantial proof of fraud, but this is one of the tropes that Republicans throw out there in times like these. Another Republican legislator said that there was no proof that GA “lifted people out of poverty” so it should be eliminated. These are the kind of people that care not for the financially lesser among us and do not mind being out front with their disdain. Do you wonder how $200 might lift a disabled person out of poverty? Yeah, me too. It wouldn’t and we all know that in our hearts.
Let me deal with the fraud by stating a few facts about our great legislators, and this includes Republicans and Democrats. A legislator has a base pay of $88,610 as of December 1st. They are given a travel allowance of $180 a day and THEY NEED NO RECEIPTS to claim it. To put their grubby hands on the retirement benefit they only need to serve 10 years. They have access to lifetime health coverage and their benefit is approximately 80 percent of their yearly income.
Compare this to teacher retirement (people who are always getting pounded for their wonderful benefits). Those of you who have taught or know a retired teacher, know that they would trade places with these fat legislators at the drop of a hat – as would anyone with common sense.
Let’s look at the state legislature in Montana where, surprisingly, they have what they all a citizens’ legislature. This legislature meets 90 days PER YEAR and the legislators are paid $11.30 PER HOUR. They seem to get the work done there. Our legislature meets regularly all year long with a recess in November of even numbered years and they seem to get very little done.
Here are some suggestions for you and for our legislators:
1. Legislators need to exercise a conscience. That seems as likely as a snowstorm in July.
2. The legislature needs to be paid on an hourly basis and the length of the term need to be reduced immediately. This would require a lot of work but you can help the process by asking your local legislator to justify his/her salary and benefits and demanding that they reduce their salaries and how long they meet every year.
3. Read more. Get informed. Come to understand what is being done in your name by the lunatics in Harrisburg.
4. Support local food pantries because they are taking up some of the slack caused by the inhumane Republican legislature.
5. Vote the lunatics out of office. I am not suggesting that Democrats are the panacea but it is Republicans who are carrying on this war against the poor and they have been doing so for the last seven years. They will only stop, if you vote them out of office.
6. In the next election, ask your local legislators where they stand on these items I have presented here and then vote accordingly.

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