Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Pa.'s neediest shunted aside by Gov. Corbett's budget priorities

When it comes to setting priorities, Gov. Corbett and lawmakers in Harrisburg have put the most needy in the state at the bottom of the list.

Pa.'s neediest shunted aside by Gov. Corbett's budget priorities

When it comes to setting priorities, Gov. Corbett and lawmakers in Harrisburg have put the most needy in the state at the bottom of the list.

As early as Sunday, thousands of adults could be tossed off General Assistance rolls without a safety net. They include the temporarily disabled, recovering drug addicts, battered women, those caring for elderly parents, and children who would otherwise be in foster care.

While Corbett and the Republican-controlled legislature negotiated to restore painful cuts to public and higher education, too many social-service programs were left on the chopping block.

Not surprisingly, they argue that the state no longer has the money. But it can afford to advocate for tax credits for big gas companies?

By eliminating the General Assistance program, the state will save an estimated $150 million annually. The human toll will be far greater.

The inhumane cuts target the poor and will likely exacerbate conditions that will end up costing the state even more money to correct in the long run. The cash-assistance program has been around since the Great Depression.

About 70,000 Pennsylvanians, half of them in Philadelphia, receive benefits from the program, roughly $205 a month in most counties. The benefit is not a lot of money and typically lasts only for nine months, but, for the very poor and most vulnerable, it is a lifeline.

The cuts may put the poor on the streets, or send them to already overwhelmed homeless shelters, church and community agencies, or even lead people to commit crimes and end up in prison, another financial burden on the system.

When you consider that it costs about $1,000 a month to house someone in a city homeless shelter — about five times the cost of general assistance — and most shelters are at capacity, the cuts make no sense. It’s a shame that the poor are such easy targets.

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