Have they no shame?

 “If you are a poor woman, let me just say, tonight is not your night.”
– Senator Brown

These words from Senator Brown came shortly before 1am on Saturday morning after Senate Republicans, with the assistance of three Democrats, took over the Senate floor using an arcane parliamentary procedure and passed a shameful all-cuts budget.

The budget passed early Saturday morning is, indeed, incredibly harmful to low-income women across the state. The Senate’s budget makes $202 million in cuts to our state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This includes an additional 2% grant cut, lowering the lifetime limit to 48 months, and a loss of 4,000 child care slots.

Knowing that the public supports a safety net for our state’s most vulnerable, these lawmakers kept their budget proposal quiet, held no hearings on it, and forced a vote before most lawmakers even had a chance to read the proposal. Now that we can actually read this budget, here are the details on the over $350 million in cuts to the state’s safety net:

•    It cuts funding for our state’s struggling families, those who are on TANF, by $202 million.
•    It eliminates the Disability Lifeline Medical program for 15,000 low-income disabled adults.
•    It eliminates the State Food Assistance Program, which provides food to 12,000 immigrant families each month.
•    It cuts more than $40 million from the Housing and Essential Needs program.

This is unacceptable. This is an attack on our state’s commitment to care for all Washingtonians, regardless of income. As if that’s not enough, the budget passed by the Senate on Saturday morning directly contradicts the public testimony and presence of thousands of citizens who came to Olympia or contacted legislators urging them to protect the safety net.

We still have a chance to make a difference. This budget, while shameful, still needs to go to the House for concurrence. Your lawmakers in both the House and the Senate need to hear from you today.

Lawmakers must see these messages everywhere they look: in their inboxes, in their voicemails, and in their local papers. Please take these three actions now!

1.    Send them an email and urge them to stand strong for our state’s safety net.
2.    Call them at 1.800.562.6000 and tell them that you support a budget for all Washingtonians.
3.    Use our template to send a letter to the editor of your paper in support of low-income women and children, in support of people with disabilities, and in support of our immigrant and refugee communities.

Marcy Bowers is Director of Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network, which builds grassroots power to end causes of poverty and create opportunities for everyone to prosper.

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SOS: Save our Safety Net

Women with diapers she cannot afford without assitance

Save our safety net. http://www.povertyaction.org

“My TANF grant is $562 a month. My rent is $550. I am living on $12 per month right now with three kids.” –Angela, Vancouver

Washington State’s safety net is a critical public asset that ensures our neighbors and loved ones are able to survive when they have fallen on hard times or are unable to work due to an injury, age or disability. Safety net programs help families like Angela’s avoid homelessness and provide vital support as they regain their economic security.

Over the past three years, the Governor and legislature have cut billions from programs that Angela and other Washingtonians depend on to meet their basic needs. Cuts of this magnitude have whittled our state’s safety net down to its basic foundation. Now, the state is facing yet another
$2 billion revenue shortfall. In less than two weeks, lawmakers will convene at the state capitol for a special legislative session to pass a supplemental budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Last month, Governor Gregoire released a “road map” of an all-cuts budget to guide lawmakers as they draft their supplemental budget proposals.

Boy with milk

Milk is not a luxury.

The proposed cuts in the Governor’s road map would put Angela and her three children 76 cents away from becoming homeless. After multiple rounds of deep budget cuts, it is difficult to fathom the possibility of further stripping programs like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Disability Lifeline-Housing and Essential Needs, and health care. Low-income families cannot afford to absorb another round of cuts to the programs they depend on to survive!

On Monday, Nov. 21, the Governor will release her final supplemental budget proposal, and she needs to hear that people like Angela are barely making ends meet and cannot afford another
all-cuts budget.

Contact the Governor TODAY and urge her to include revenue in her final supplemental budget proposal.

For more information and to find out how else you can get involved, go to povertyaction.org.

It Gets Better with Disability Lifeline

Kytty

Editor’s Note:  This story is courtesy of the Statewide Poverty Action Network’s Network News. It’s an interesting follow up to the presentation Dan Savage made at our recent luncheon about the It Gets Better Project. Dan promotes personal outreach as an antidote to bullying of LGBTQ youth by peers in schools, families, etc. Kytty’s story chronicles political engagement to counter the way budget cuts to Disability Lifeline would be a kind of state-sponsored bullying of marginalized people.

Kytty, a 24-year-old former Disability Lifeline (DL) recipient and new Poverty Action member, shared her story with lawmakers and spoke out against budget cuts. After years of childhood abuse, Kytty was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, making it nearly impossible for her to hold down a job. Stressful working conditions, such as angry customers, sometimes triggered flashbacks of her abuse. Left without a source of income, Kytty survived three episodes of homelessness before learning she was eligible for DL.

The DL program provides a small monthly cash grant and medical coverage to people with very low incomes when they’re temporarily unable to work due to a mental illness or physical disability. This program has endured a 40% reduction since 2009. Now, the Senate has proposed the total elimination of the DL cash grant and a $51 million cut to DL’s medical coverage. If adopted, these cuts will take away the only source of income for over 20,000 individuals and cause 6,000 people living with disabilities to lose access to health care.

Kytty, who is transgender, describes her experience of homelessness as extremely stressful because she feared her identity would cause her to be targeted on the streets. “People discriminated against me and treated me like a second class citizen.” Having aged out of other transitional housing and homeless prevention services, DL provided the necessary support for Kytty and her partner to move off the streets and into a rented room. “I literally used every single penny on rent.” DL’s medical benefits provided Kytty with insurance and enabled her to access medications and counseling services. Kytty is currently working through her PTSD and dreams of earning a college degree in music technology and becoming a professional musician.

Kytty met with her lawmakers for the first time last month in Olympia through Poverty Action’s Lobby Tuesday program. She said that she felt like she made a difference and that the trip was fun and productive, “I felt like Harvey Milk – like an activist!” Her advice to first-time activists who have never shared their stories before is to “research your lawmakers as much as you can beforehand and know their names, districts, and what issues they care about. Speak with confidence, even if you’re nervous.” Kytty encourages other current and former DL recipients to speak out: “There is a huge need for this program – it prevents homelessness.”

Washington State legislators continue to wrangle over the state budget. To let them know how you feel about Disability Lifeline or other issues, use this handy online tool.

Disability Lifeline appeals beyond August 2010

We want to clarify a recent post on this blog about how to appeal termination notices for Disability Lifeline benefits in Washington state.

While a first round of termination notices was mailed in August, 2010, termination notices will continue to be mailed to folks as they reach the 24-month limit.

Regardless of when you get a termination notice, you will have to register your appeal by the end of that month if you want to keep your benefits coming until your appeal is ruled upon.

You can appeal during a 90-day time frame, but if you do not appeal during the month you get your notification, your benefits will not continue during the time you are waiting for your fair hearing.

Please go back to the original post for details on how to appeal.

You can appeal termination of Disability Lifeline benefits

Not Cool: Effective September 1, 2010, thousands of Washington State residents will lose their Disability Lifeline (formerly called GAU or General Assistance-Unemployable) benefits from the state.

Man with discouraged look on his faceKing County will be heavily impacted as more than 30% of Disability Lifeline recipients across the state live here. Benefits are being terminated due to a 24-month time limit approved by the legislature last session.

Disability Lifeline provides $339 in cash and medical benefits to people with very low incomes who are unable to work due to a temporary physical or mental health disability. For the first time, Disability Lifeline sets a time limit on receipt of benefits to 24 months in the past 60 months.

Termination can be appealed
If you or someone you know has received a termination notice, you have the right to appeal! But you must file your appeal by the end of the month you receive your notification in order to keep getting your benefits! For instance, if your termination notice is dated in August 2010 you have only until August 31 to file your appeal and keep benefits until the hearing decision. You can still file an appeal later — up to 90 days after your notice — but you will not continue to receive benefits while you wait.

The best way to file an appeal is to go to your local DSHS office. Turn in a written hearing request. Keep a copy! Have DSHS stamp your copy with the date received. Keep this as your proof of submitting your appeal.

If you cannot go in to a DSHS office in person by August 31, call DSHS. Be sure to speak to a person, not just a voicemail box. Write notes about your conversation including the name of the person you are speaking to and the date and time of your call. Keep these notes as your proof of your appeal. Ask for a “fair hearing” for your benefit termination. Ask the DSHS worker on the phone to make the written request to the hearings office for you.

You can also file your appeal through a combination of faxing and mailing the original on the same date. Use the fax number and address listed on the hearing form. Keep a copy of the appeal request, and keep the proof of the fax transmittal. It is safer if you can mail the original via certified mail with a return receipt.

In order to win your hearing, you may need to collect and bring medical and other evidence showing that you qualify as disabled under the SSI disability standards.

If you lose your hearing, any benefits that have been continued will stop and you will have to repay up to two months worth of benefits.

After you file your appeal, seek legal help. In King County you can call 2.1.1 or contact Solid Ground’s Family Assistance attorneys at evonnez@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6742.

In all other counties call CLEAR at 1.888.201.1014 to speak to an advocate.

Thanks to WashingtonLawHelp.org for this info! Additional information is available online: Washington LawHelp.

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