Tag Archives: Cash assistance

Governor’s Budget Includes Decrease for Cash Assistance Program

Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for 2011-12 has been released, and it shows interesting trends in funding to the Department of Public Welfare. The governor has proposed increasing funds for Medicaid, which is a good development for the state.

Enrollment in Medical Assistance is projected to increase in 2011-12 by 4.5% to 2,273,555 Pennsylvanians. Overall state funding for MA is $5.2 billion in the budget plan, reflecting the expected increase in enrollment and additional utilization costs. It also reflects a significant increase in state funding to make up for lost FMAP funding.

Unfortunately, cash assistance grants, meant to help families in need cover basic living expenses like housing, utilities, clothing, and more, have still not increased. It has been over 21 years since there was an increase in cash assistance levels on January 1, 1990. The grant levels that families (who are overwhelmingly single mothers with one or two children) receive are too low to begin with and their real value, when adjusted for inflation, gets lower and lower each year. The number of families and individuals needing assistance is expected to increase this year:

Enrollment in cash assistance programs is projected to increase slightly in 2011-12 to 256,005. Funding for cash grants, however, was cut by 10% to $249 million.

In this proposed budget, the governor’s office has ignored the situation of today’s needy families. It is time to provide those who have fallen on hard time with the assistance they need to survive and the real ability to escape the cycle of poverty.

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Filed under Pennsylvania, Welfare

Debunking the Myth of the “Welfare Queen”: Who Actually Receives TANF Benefits?

In February of this year, a blogger wrote about their experience observing an 11th grade classroom. The post discusses a student performing a poem that mocks a poor woman who encourages her seven children to steal food. When the character confronts police officers and runs into the drug-addict father of her children, she delivers the punch line – “You can have my welfare check!”

According to the post’s author, when asked who the poem was referring to, the student said “Minorities, because they’re the main ones on welfare.”

Besides the obviously skewed viewpoint the poem expresses, it is alarming to note that the girl reading the poem was one of two black students in the classroom – the rest being white.

This unsettlingly common view of cash assistance recipients in the U.S. dates back to the 1976 presidential campaign, when Ronald Reagan popularized a hyperbolic framework for female welfare recipients known as the “welfare queen.” The stereotype is sexist, racist, and belittles the legitimacy of cash assistance programs, criminalizing and disparaging those in need.

While the infamous star of the “welfare queen” narrative, cruising around in her “welfare Cadillac” was nowhere to be found by the national media, the fictional picture of lower class minority women abusing the system that gives them monthly “hand-outs” continues to shape the way Americans think about welfare recipients. Moreover, this misconception adversely affects the largest demographic benefitting from cash assistance – children.

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Filed under Domestic violence, Government, Pennsylvania, Politics, Welfare

New Census Figures on Poverty Paint a Bleak Picture for Women

The U.S. Census Bureau released new statistics on poverty last week, revealing a dismal picture for women and families across the country. The number of people living in poverty increased from 39.8 million in 2008 to 43.6 million in 2009 – in real terms, that means that one out of every seven Americans is living in poverty. The full report can be accessed here [PDF].

Of all types of households, the ones headed by women claim the lowest median earnings: the 20.6 million single women not living with family members have a median income of $25,269, while the 14.5 million families headed by women have a median income of $32,597.

Contrast those figures with the median incomes for single male households ($36,611), families with a single male householder ($48,084), and married-couple households ($71,830).

For single women raising children, the picture is even bleaker: 29.9% of female-headed households live below the federal poverty line. By contrast, 11.1% of all families are in poverty, and for married-couple families, that percentage drops to 5.8%.

The gender wage gap didn’t significantly change last year:

Both men and women, 15 years old and over, who worked full-time, year-round experienced increases in real median earnings between 2008 and 2009. The median earnings of men increased 2.0 percent, from $46,191 to $47,127; and the earnings of women increased by 1.9 percent, from $35,609 to $36,278. In 2009, the female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.77, not statistically different from the 2008 ratio.

Breakdowns by state and county will be available later this year. In 2008, 12.1% of Pennsylvanians lived below the poverty line.

These figures are depressing, but not hopeless. There are several things you can do to show your support for equal pay and giving single mothers the help they need to get out of poverty:

  • Let your elected officials know that you support the Paycheck Fairness Act. The PFA would strengthen the Equal Pay Act and proposes voluntary guidelines for employers to follow in evaluating jobs and eliminating sex-based pay disparities for the same work.
  • Tell Congress that the safety net is failing women and families. This report [PDF] from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research describes the many ways that the systems set up to help people in need are failing women and children. The U.S. Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing on September 21 on “Welfare Reform: A New Conversation on Women and Poverty.” You can submit written comments here.
  • If you’re in Pennsylvania, you can urge our gubernatorial candidates to pledge to raise cash assistance levels in their budget proposals to the state legislature. Contact Republican Tom Corbett here and email Democrat Dan Onorato here.


Filed under Equal pay, Pennsylvania

New year, same cash assistance benefits

Happy New Year! We hope you enjoyed your holidays.

While January 1 marked the beginning of a year in which we’ll see a new president sworn in and more women in high-ranking positions in the U.S. government, it also marks the 19th year in which cash assistance benefits in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have remained the same. That’s right – the poorest families in our state who are struggling to keep up with the spiraling cost of living have been receiving the exact same grant amounts for almost two decades. The benefits don’t increase with inflation either, and a dollar doesn’t go nearly as far in 2009 as it did in 1990.

For further information, see this op-ed written by WLP Program Assistant Christina Cann that was published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August. An excerpt:

Even the federal government acknowledges that a family of three is living under the poverty line if their monthly income is $1,467 or less. Shamefully, that same family could receive no more than $403 per month in cash assistance in Pennsylvania, a small fraction of the federal poverty line.

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Filed under Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Welfare