Monday, December 17, 2012

Stop Humiliating the Poor: An Open Letter to Politicians and Welfare Bureaucrats, by Vicky Steinitz and Anne Wheelock

What kind of society do we live in?  Two disturbing trends help answer this question.

First, growing numbers of our citizens are living below the poverty level and even, alarmingly, below half the poverty level. Growing numbers receive food stamps, live in shelters, and are daily denied emergency shelter assistance.

Second, despite the rise in poverty and inequality, the percentage of Americans who favor government help for the poor is declining.  According to a Boston Globe article (“The Great Divide,” 11/4/12, p.1), the slide in approval of public benefits is especially dramatic among Republicans, whose support for aid has dropped from 62% to 40% over the past 25 years.  Among Democrats, support for government assistance has also declined, from 79% to 75%.

Why is it that at a time when we should expect more compassion, we find less?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mistrusting the Poor, by Betty Reid Mandell

The Massachusetts legislature has decided that the poor can’t be trusted with money, and a legislative commission has considered not allowing recipients of food stamps (now called SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and recipients of welfare (TAFDC) to use cash for any of their purchases (such as paying the rent), and issuing vouchers instead.

The legislature has already passed a law that doesn’t allow people who receive cash on their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards to pay for liquor, lottery tickets, casinos, or strip clubs. They are worried about people using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards in other states, even though SNAP is a federal program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture and EBT cards can be used in all states. In order to avoid stigmatizing food stamp recipients, USDA said that an EBT card should be no different than any other credit card.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Notes from the 2nd World Conference on Women's Shelter, 2/27-3/1

If there could be a theme for this conference, it is the statement told to me by Pochi Tawla Matina from Cameroon: “Domestic and Sexual Violence is the same everywhere.”  Over 1600 attendees from ninety-five countries focused on the same problem. The stories were the same from every country attending the 2nd World Conference on Women’s Shelters.  The international aspect to the conference was one of intense and empowering solidarity.