Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Just Harvest Co-Director, Joni Rabinowitz submitted this letter to the editor which appeared on Friday, December 18, 2009 in the editorial section of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Strengthen 'safety net'

More than 561,000 Pennsylvanians are unemployed and more than 400,000 children live below the poverty line. The recession affects everybody.

And our current policies to address poverty don't keep up with our changing economy. On this much, we agree with Glen Meakem. But Meakem is wrong to propose eliminating the "safety net" in his column "The dependent class" (Dec. 6 and Actually, spending on "safety net" programs is insufficient to deal with the unprecedented economic crisis. In Pennsylvania, for example, the number of people receiving cash assistance is near a 40-year low -- only 85,000 families, down from 170,000 in 1997.

Pennsylvania spends $164 million less per year on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash grants than it did in 1997. Grant amounts haven't increased in 20 years and pay only $403 per month for a family of three! Meakem says the nation "spent $714 billion on various means-tested welfare programs" in 2008. But more than half of that was for health programs like Medicaid.

We invite Meakem to join the fight for health care reform for all Americans, to increase coverage that will lead to cheaper preventive care and reduce wasteful spending. The rest of Meakem's deceptive accounting includes Pell Grants for college students, LIHEAP to help pay for heat, job training and Head Start.

"Safety net" programs should be modernized and expanded, not eliminated.

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