By Adrienne Parkes
I’m writing to talk about an issue that’s important to me. One of the women at Just Harvest, an organization that works to reduce poverty and increase access to healthy food for those in need in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, recently came to my school (CCAC) to talk to a group of women in a program where I do my work study. It’s called the KEYS program, and it helps women who are on public assistance get through their first year (ideally two years) of school. It provides things like access to childcare subsidies, help with transportation costs, and the cost of books. I started out as a client, and now I work there temporarily, though it may become permanent once I finish my degree.
At the recent public event I attended, someone from Just Harvest brought up the fact that the organization is fighting to get the cash grant for people who are on cash assistance increased. Out of ALL the things that would help me, this is a major one. I have been on CA for about two years, and as you might know, after a certain amount of time, the amount of hours you have to be working increases. They don’t give a damn if you’re a single parent or if you’re in school; you have to work 20 hours and that’s that (30 hours once your child turns 6). I am going to be starting at the University of Pittsburgh in the fall, and when that happens, I will lose my cash. I know that the cash grant hasn’t been increased since something ridiculous like 1990, so I fully support what they are trying to do. I’m not sure if the increase would mean I would continue to qualify, or that I would just get more as long as I meet the 20 hours, but either way it would be beneficial to so many people.
I use cash assistance for so many things, but for the most part it really helps me offset the fact that I receive no child support. I am lucky to have resources like WIC and food stamps, as well as CCIS, so that my food costs and child care costs are mostly covered. But when it comes to other things like car insurance/registration/repairs, utility bills, etc., that $198/month really helps. Anything additional would be a dream. So, I’m not sure if I’m too late and if you’ve already met with Congress, but in case you didn’t, this is what I would have liked you to address: increasing the cash grant to match the inflation rate for the last, what? 20 years? However long it has been, it’s long overdue.0