Saturday, April 18, 2009

Crisis for Women in Poverty: 'We Must Fight Back!"

Crisis for women in poverty: ‘We must fight back!’

by Prisscilla Cooper
Published Apr 16, 2009 10:02 PM

Since 1996 mothers on public assistance have been subject to a five-year limit on benefits. In Ohio the state limit is only three years, during which time recipients must work 30 hours per week for a below-minimum wage. Prisscilla Cooper, CEO and President of Family Connection Center, is leading a fight for a moratorium on time limits. Below are excerpts from her March 25 talk, given at a Cleveland public meeting which also featured Fred Goldstein, author of “Low-Wage Capitalism: Colossus with Feet of Clay.”

While it’s so important for our legislators to bail out the banks with billions of dollars, fund unpopular wars and help their billion-dollar corporations give huge, multimillion-dollar compensation packages to their executives, they sit idly by and watch millions of extremely poor families disintegrate because of welfare reform time limits.

In 1996 then-President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. This changed the welfare program to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It limited assistance to five years during a person’s lifetime. Even if people work for years and are laid-off or become ill, they will no longer qualify if they have used up their time. The children can receive child-only benefits if the mother is no longer in the home. The child can be placed in another person’s home or foster care and continue to receive benefits. This procedure guarantees that families are torn apart, disregarded and abandoned.

Mothers and their children are thrown into the streets when they can no longer pay rent. Children go hungry when the only resource is food stamps. Some mothers see giving their children away to relatives, friends and even strangers as their last recourse. More than 22,000 children are with caregivers in Cuyahoga County. The war is not on poverty. The United States is waging a war on poor women and their babies.

Where are all those jobs that mothers were promised? Where are all those elusive jobs that exceptional training would produce? Oh, that’s right; they were talking about community service placements as requirements—[which is really] Slave Labor. These women are not volunteering to work for pennies a month; they are forced to. The fathers are also required to pay the state back for the same benefits the mother is working for. Child support goes to the state, and the mother’s labor is used for free. Welcome to the Real World of the Plantation of the United States of America.

We must hold our legislators responsible for what happens to the extremely poor in our communities. We are our brothers’ keepers. With the massive job losses, the economic crisis is affecting the middle class as well. If we cannot work together to get the policies changed—putting a moratorium on time limits—they too will suffer the breakup of families and the devastation of poverty. We Must Fight Back! Decent Pay for a Day’s Work. No Pay, Then No Work. No Work, Then a Safety Net! Fight for a Moratorium on Time Limits!
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