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URGENT: Harrisburg to Slash Safety Net While No One is Looking

"As you do it to the least of these, you do it to me." Jesus said. So what would he do with this last minute effort by Harrisburg legislators to slash the safety net for the most marginalized? Citizens who care about protecting them must make calls today or tomorrow about5 HB 960 to your state representative and to Rep. Turzai, the House Majority Leader and Rep. Dermondy, the House Minority Leader. Ask them to vote NO on HB 960. It is expected to be voted on quickly after its passage in the PA Senate today (Wednesday 6/29/11).  This surprise bill is being proposed with no citizen comments and with little time for thought in these waning days on the legislative calendars. Matters that are this grave and impact so many people need to have more time for reflection and planning and not jammed through while no one is watching!

House Bill 960 would give the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) unbridled power and gives the Department of Public Welfare authority to make drastic cuts affecting Medical Assistance, SNAP (food stamps), child care, welfare-to-work, and cash assistance programs, without proper legislative oversight, or public comment. 

- The bill abdicates the General Assembly’s responsibility to make carefully-reasoned choices affecting Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens by allowing DPW to dramatically increase child care co-payments, cut Medicaid benefits, and reduce eligibility for benefits – with no provision for legislative oversight nor any opportunity for public comment. 

Specifically, the amendment gives DPW the following authority to make cuts:

Section 403.1
Suspends laws setting up rule-making processes that give the General Assembly and the public opportunity to comment on proposed rules.  Instead, DPW would have unilateral authority to:

  • Reduce cash assistance grant amounts (which are already at around 25% of the federal poverty level and have not been increased since 1990);
  • Increase co-pays for visits to medical providers without limit;
  • Reduce covered medical services under the Medicaid program without limit; and
  • Eliminate whole categories of eligibility for Medicaid, adding tens of thousands to the rolls of the uninsured.

Section 405.1A
Allows DPW to eliminate supportive services that help low-income families move from welfare to work, such as vendor payments for books and supplies, transportation to welfare-to-work programs, and more.  The amendment thus sweeps away last year’s regulatory reforms developed with input from the General Assembly and public.

Section 408.3
Allows DPW to increase co-payments for child care subsidies to unaffordable levels without public input and formal regulatory review.

Section 432.24
Imposes costly and unnecessary new drug testing requirements for food stamp and cash assistance recipients who have had a felony drug conviction within the past five years.

Please, contact your state representative and House leadership RIGHT NOW. Pennsylvania's most vulnerable residents need your voice today.

This information comes from Women’s Law Project and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.


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