Hundreds of people representing Act UP, Fight for Philly and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, among other groups, met at Broad and Walnut streets this afternoon to rally against Gov. Tom Corbett's elimination of General Assistance funds.
The cuts, set to go in effect tomorrow, will eliminate the $200 monthly cash assistance relied on by many adults without children and disabled citizens who don't qualify for the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program – an estimated 61,000 people statewide, including 35,000 in Philadelphia.
Raising a ceremonial wooden coffin marked "Here Lies G.A." complete with a small memorial of stuffed animals, protesters said the loss of the funds will lead to more people without homes, without medical care and without acceptable living conditions. They said these factors will ultimately contribute to more preventable deaths.
A letter to Corbett was hand-delivered to his Philadelphia office located on the 11th floor of the building on the 200 block of South Broad Street on July 18 and signed by Organizer of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project Terrance Meacham, Cheri Honkala of the Poor Peoples Economic Rights Campaign, C.O.O. of SCU Services Rod Willaman, Chief of Transitional Services, Inc. Victoria Livingstone, Wedge Medical Center Vice President of Operations Christopher Sweeney, PA Cares for All organizer Lance Haver, Family Services of Western Pennsylvania C.E.O. Donald Goughler, Fight for Philly, Act-UP Philadelphia and Neighborhood Networks.
"At the time you eliminated General Assistance, the sole source of income for 70,000 Pennsylvanians in desperate situations, you said you would 'try to find alternate sources of help, including accessing federal or other state programs' for the recipients.
"... We have been waiting to hear what you have found for the former recipients. As you are well aware, there will be no General Assistance checks issued in August. It is imperative for people to know what to do so that they can access the programs you referenced."
They went on to ask to meet with Corbett or a senior staffer today to "hear what we should be telling our clients, members and friends to do so that they have some income in August."
"As of today, the Governor or his spokesperson have not announced what programs are available to replace GA," Fight for Philly said in a statement. "That is why hundreds of people in Philadelphia and across the state are attempting to visit the governor's office. All we want is for the governor to tell us what programs he has found that people were not taking advantage of before and can do so now, or admit there is nothing and stop creating false hope."