- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Community Protests Evisceration of General Assistance

New America Media, News Report, Inga Buchbinder Posted: Feb 24, 2010

Tatiana Shelby and her family have been on General Assistance (GA) for 12 years. Without General Assistance we wouldnt be able to go through a day, we need it to support us, she said.

Shelby, 18, and her youth group from Youth Spirit Artworks in Berkeley were among more than 250 people on General Assistance and their supporters who crammed into an Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday to protest proposed cuts to the program.

If GA gets cut a lot of us is gonna go homeless, and a lot of us is gonna be hungry, Shelby said.

General Assistance is often referred to as the last-chance social program for indigent adults who are not able to support themselves and are not eligible for other public funds, or assistance programs. To qualify for General Assistance, residents of Alameda County must not own more than $1,000 in personal property. The benefits are small. The maximum cash grant for a single person on GA is $336 per month and it is considered to be a loan that must be paid back either after they get off welfare or by participating in a county-sponsored workfare program.

It's a meager existence, but as the economy worsens more and more people are turning to General Assistance just to survive. More than 1.3 million Californians now depend on the program (also called General Relief in some places), an increase of 45 percent since January 2008. That number includes nearly 11,000 people in Alameda County.

And yet, in a cruel irony the same recession that's causing General Assistance rolls to surge, is also leading to record deficits in local government.

"The program was growing beyond [the Countys] capacity,said Alameda County Social Services spokesperson Sylvia Soublet.

In September 2009, cuts were made to the program based on the number of people living in one home as well as a deduction to cover medical care costs.

A second round of cuts to the program scheduled to go into effect April 1, would limit payments to a single person or family to only three months out of a year. This would leave many without a source of income for the rest of the year.

Why not invest the money in the people as a preventative [cost], Angelique Holmes of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) said. Im hoping that [the Board] will look beyond this issue as just a budget issue and look at it as a human issue.

Community organizations around the Bay Area that work with poor and low-income residents are working to see what other counties in California have done when faced with similar cuts to assistance programs.

The Board of Supervisors are the representatives of the people and they need to understand that people have a voice in every decision that [they] make, said Benny Love, Jr. of Community Organizing Team (COT), a subsection of BOSS.

But while organizers hoped to get the Board of Supervisors to reconsider the cuts before they kick in April 1, a spokesperson for Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker told NAM that at this time no more votes on the policy are planned.

Supervisor Gail Steele, who voted in favor of the General Assistance cuts, said that she knows what happens to the people on the program after cuts are made. I live in an area that will be totally impacted, Steele said. Five people I know are losing their houses.

Steve Weiss of Bay Area Legal Aid said in the short term the cuts mean low-income families will go without food or medicine, while in the long term, many will become homeless. That has been shown over and over in different studies when cuts like this have been made, Weiss said. And in this economy a lot of people are barely making it.

The cuts imposed on the state by Governor Schwarzenegger force counties like Alameda into a terrible position, Steele said. If the state is not going to raise taxes then this is a nightmare that will be faced by everyone.

Supervisor Nate Miley voted against the proposed cuts. It is problematic when we have to cut GA benefits since the County is responsible for the safety net, Miley said in an email. Cutting GA benefits might end up costing the County more in the long run.

Meantime, on the streets of Alameda County, a grim reality is beginning to materialize. Sahara Tyler of Berkeley's Youth Spirit Artworks noted, Every day I see the police tell the homeless to get up and keep moving, but where are they gonna keep moving to?"

Additional reporting by Aaron Glantz

Related Articles:

For Ethnic Communities, a Year of Stimulus Not Enough

BART Loses Fed Funds for Oakland Airport Tram

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Stimulus Watch