PA House urged to pass HR 833 to study causes and effects of poverty

July 23, 2010

Almost one-and-a-half million people, including over 444,000 children, live in poverty in Pennsylvania.  Even before the national economic downturn, Pennsylvania’s poverty rates were on the rise.  Family poverty rates went from 7.8% to 8.5% and child poverty rates jumped from 14.9% to 16.4% from 2000 to 2008.

Yet, no one fully understands this problem.  And, until we do, it is difficult to craft public policy to help Pennsylvanian families move up and out of poverty.

Recently, at the urging of the Coalition for Low Income Pennsylvanians (CLIP), State Representative Eugene DePasquale introduced House Resolution 833.   If enacted, this resolution would establish a commission to conduct an “in-depth study of the occurrence, effects, trends and future projections of poverty in this Commonwealth.”

HR 833 will help all of us obtain a better understanding of how poverty impacts Pennsylvanians and identify areas where increased support is the most necessary.  A geographically, professionally, and economically diverse committee will hold listening groups with low-income residents around the state, conduct surveys of low-income communities, and study strategies other states use to address similar challenges.  The committee will then write a report summarizing the impact of poverty, identifying apparent trends, and predicting future difficulties.

On June 2, 2010, the House Health and Human Services Committee passed HB 833 unanimously.  But time is running out for the full House to vote on the resolution.   Please write your local representative to say that you support studying the effects of poverty on the Commonwealth and urge them to vote in favor of HR 833.

Many programs that CLS clients rely upon see cuts in new state budget

July 22, 2010

In passing the budget last month, the Pennsylvania Legislature had an opportunity to take a balanced approach that included enhanced revenue through a variety of common sense measures.  Unfortunately, the 2010-11 budget relied mostly on cuts to essential services.

The  budget includes funding cuts for many programs and services  that help CLS clients, including:

  • 19% cuts to the  State Supplemental Payment (SSP) for 345,000 low-income disabled and elderly Pennsylvanians.
  • 17% cuts to state health clinic funding.
  • 4% cuts to behavioral health services.
  • $5.9 million cuts to the Human Services Development Fund, which funds many County human services programs (on top of the previous year’s cut of $4.1 million.)

Without additional revenue, the essential services that CLS clients often rely on to satisfy basic human needs may face even deeper cuts next year.

For more details on the state budget and what it means for low-income Pennsylvanian families, please visit the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.

Assisting clients obtain the medical insurance they need

July 20, 2010

Maggie Filler, a law student intern working with CLS this summer, writes of one experience she recently had helping a disabled client obtain medical insurance.

After getting rejected from SSI and terminated from Medicaid, Judy was at a loss.  Though Judy was disabled, her husband’s unemployment compensation was $80 too high for both these programs.  Too young for Medicare, but too sick to work, she could not pay for the medical assistance she needed.

When I first met Judy (not her real name), I was struck by the pain in her voice.  She winced as she told me of her hip replacement surgery, completed while she was still on Medicaid.  After her Medicaid was terminated, her recovery from the surgery stalled and reversed.  She began to experience severe, shooting pain in her hip.  Six months after her surgery, she was still using a walker, and rarely left home.

Like many of Philadelphia’s uninsured, Judy then visited a city health center.  Luckily, she was able to get an appointment right away.  The health center did an X-ray which revealed a loosening of the muscle around her hip.  Unfortunately, the health center told her she would need further medical treatment, beyond what they could provide.

At this point, Judy called us.  Frustrated, scared, and living in pain, she was hoping to get back on the Medicaid program that she previously had.  But now her husband’s income exceeded that limit.  Instead, I told her about another Medicaid program, one with a higher income and resource threshold, but the exact same coverage:  Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities, or MAWD. Read the rest of this entry »