Wednesday, February 11, 2009

HB 2051

I tuned in a bit late this morning to catch the hearing on HB 2051 in its entirety. However; I did hear some excellent testimony regarding the bill, which would restore General Assistance dollars to those most in need in our state. “The poorest of the poor”.

A man named Steven Powell who lived in the hills of Forrest Park for a long time spoke of the help he received from JOIN, which is an agency that “supports the efforts of individuals and families to transition out of homelessness and into permanent housing”. His debilitating arthritis in both his hands caused him to become homeless in the first place. He believes that restoring this money is critical to him and others.

Bud was up next. He’s 61 years old, and worked as a long haul trucker for 35 years until his back blew out. He receives $670 a month through SSI, but he had a long wait before he was eligible for it. He said; “$315 would have meant a lot to me” during this waiting period. He also gets $10 a month in food stamps. A total joke (not funny though).

A woman named Melanie from Central City Concern spoke of their Benefits, Entitlement, Team who can expedite SSI claims for homeless people. Whereas it usually takes 2+ years of waiting for SSI in Oregon, they can get it within 42 days. Impressive! They should be passing this info. on to every social service agency in the state, if they’re not already.

A grandmother of a man who was in a horrible accident in his senior year in high school spoke of the 3 months of joy he had before they eliminated the program in 2005. She and her husband are his caregivers. He once told her that without them he would have committed suicide. I sensed a lot of frustration from this woman.

Marilyn Patton said the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services is in support of restoration. Patty Whitney-Wise spoke of “leaving federal dollars on the table” which is a federal match that would help STMULATE OUR ECONOMY. She also said she didn’t understand why Bud is only getting $10 in food stamps. Ellen Lowe tells us that ½ of people receiving SSI have mental illness.

Representative Tomei said she never forgot when Ellen first used the phrase “Poorest of the poor”. In fact there was concern from Reps. Maurer, Cowan and Boone that this benefit be restored.

Ruth McEwan who is a woman with a disability spoke of the need to “maximize the use of federal dollars” as a means for actually bringing in more money to our economy. She also mentioned her own 28 month long wait for being eligible to receive SSDI, which comes from her own work history.

Lastly, a man named Devon from the Cascade AIDS Project testified regarding the problems people with AIDS have without the General Assistance money. While they wait for SSI they have a choice to make. Either stay in a homeless shelter without the expensive meds. they need for their sickness, or stay on the streets with those expensive meds. Either way they get worse than better.

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