July 10, 2012
A Lament for General Assistance
By Marissa Harris Krey, LAMPa Advocacy Developer
I have to be honest. I’ve always found LAMPa’s mission statement to be a little long and a bit cumbersome. But when it comes down to it, there’s simply no better way to explain what the ministry of LAMPa is all about. As a reminder…
The mission of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania is to advocate in both public and private sectors of society on behalf of, and in partnership with, those persons who are denied justice, dignity, reconciliation, peace, and access to basic human rights, and who lack adequate representation and voice in the arenas of public policy.
In the four plus years that I’ve been with LAMPa, nothing we have worked on has been closer to our mission than our work the past five months trying to save General Assistance (GA). Denying 68,000 residents of our Commonwealth this small benefit is one of the most blatant blockades to basic human rights that I have witnessed.
GA served those who are disabled. Without the ability to work, and without GA, how will these neighbors meet life’s basic needs? Many may apply for federal disability benefits, but will wait months for their application to be processed. Where is the respect, dignity, and justice in taking away their only source of temporary income?
GA served survivors of domestic violence. For nine months, those fleeing abusive relationships and needing to start life all over again (many in new cities or towns) qualified for $205 a month. Perhaps enough to put down a security deposit, or to buy new clothes for a job interview. Where is peace for them now that this is gone?
GA served those in drug and alcohol recovery. An addict with no family or friends has few resources to turn his or her life around. GA was one way that our Commonwealth respected their dignity, even as they had made terrible mistakes. Now where will they go? The streets? Jail? Only time will tell.
GA served children who are orphaned, or whose parents are incarcerated. In order to give them as much peace as possible, some children are taken in not by foster parents, but by neighbors. These caregivers were provided with a small stipend, nothing near the cost of raising a child, in order that the child would not be ripped apart from everything he’s ever known, or everyone she’s ever loved.
As an advocate, I take great pride in my ability to see LAMPa’s issues from a variety of perspectives. While I am always disappointed when policy makers don’t see things our way, I can often understand the hard choices lawmakers are faced with, and know that sacrifices must be made. However, when it comes to General Assistance and this year’s state budget, I am truly ashamed to be a member of a Commonwealth that would turn our backs on 68,000 residents who have little peace in the lives. Though there is little justice for them today, I am proud that we helped raise their voice.