SSI cuts target state’s poor
Published Feb 12, 2010 8:16 PM
Nearly 200 demonstrators, many in wheelchairs, gathered at the Broad Street
Ministry on Feb. 3 to march to City Hall in protest of $22 million in cuts to
Supplemental Security Income. The cuts took effect in Pennsylvania on Feb.
Many participants in this “funeral procession for justice” wore
black or carried mock coffins and tombstone-shaped placards, underscoring the
deadly aspect this devastating blow will have for 340,000 of the state’s
most vulnerable residents, 67,000 of whom are children.
The state has tried to downplay the monthly SSI decrease of $5 for individuals
and $10 for families as insignificant. The official announcement about the cuts
was not even made until two weeks before they were scheduled to take effect,
even though the state’s budget was approved in September.
For people with disabilities, seniors and children on SSI already struggling to
survive on $600 a month or less, these reductions could mean the inability to
afford the co-payment on an important medicine or to buy tokens to get to
school. For people with incomes already just 77.7 percent of the federal
poverty level, the loss of even $5 can be devastating.
Many elderly and disabled in the state rely on paratransit services, which can
cost $20 for just one round trip. For families with children, $10 less a month
— the cost of a box of cereal and a gallon of milk — might mean
skipping yet another meal.
Nearly one-third of the state’s SSI recipients live in Philadelphia,
where very few supermarkets are easily accessible without a car. For the 30,000
others living in the surrounding suburbs, grocery options are often limited to
higher-priced stores like Whole Foods.
Speakers at the rally noted that as Pennsylvania state legislators and Gov. Ed
Rendell are taking money from the poorest in the state, plans were dropped to
tax corporations that are rapidly expanding drilling for natural gas. These
companies are using the environmentally hazardous process of hydraulic
Rally organizers handed out hundreds of fliers to people along the march route
urging them to call Gov. Rendell and area state legislators to reverse the
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