Apologies for multiple alerts this week, but legislators need to hear from us today. This legislation is appalling—members of the General Assembly are abdicating their responsibility to ensure the welfare of all Pennsylvanians by handing over complete authority to one cabinet official who has made his desire to slash benefits to our most vulnerable citizens apparent over the past few months. This is not limited to “welfare cheats”—seniors, children, and people with disabilities are in danger of losing critical supports. It has had no opportunity for public review, and virtually none for members of the General Assembly–it was introduced YESTERDAY (June 29) as an amendment to the welfare code.
Please make calls today to your state representative and to Rep. Turzai, the House Majority Leader, and Rep. Dermody, 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 yesterday.
HB 960 (http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2011&sind=0&body=H&type=B&BN=0960) would give the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) unbridled power.
DPW would have the 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 cuts would hurt Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable seniors, women, children, victims of domestic violence and people with disabilities. In sum, the amendment would slash Pennsylvania’s safety net – without proper consideration by the General Assembly.
Representative Turzai can be reached at 717-772-9943 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representative Dermody can be reached at 717-787-3566 or email@example.com.
Contact information for your state representative is available at http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/#address.
Here are some points to make in contacting your elected officials:
Representatives Should Vote “No” on H.B. 960
H.B. 960 would give the Department of Public Welfare virtually unchecked authority to cut cash assistance, Medicaid, and welfare-to-work supports.
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.
The key language in this bill was sprung on the public in the waning days of the budget debate. This is not how decisions about critical safety net programs should be made.
Specifically, the amendment gives DPW the following authority to make cuts:
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.
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.
Allows DPW to increase co-payments for child care subsidies to unaffordable levels without public input and formal regulatory review.
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 NOW. Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents need your voice today.