There are thousands of lives being destroyed

root - Posted on 31 December 1969

The fight for welfare Justice continues in Alameda County

by Sam Drew/PNN

“There are thousands of lives being destroyed…How does removing money from the pockets of your poorest people fit into your 10 year plan? It’s not just about G.A. (General Assistance) It’s about human beings. It’s about how to make our communities safe.” Paul Boden, director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, said confidently to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors about their proposal to cut G.A. in July.

POOR Magazine advocates and organizers from Homeless Action Center and BOSS and several other organizations, as well as hundreds of other citizens assembled in downtown Oakland in front of the County of Alameda Administration Building in protest of a plan to place six month time limit on “employable” recipients of General Assistance. I was there to re-port and sup-port those who came to let everyone know that cuts to G.A. will create increased health care costs, drive more people into homelessness, increase crime and seriously hurt the faltering local economy.

G.A. is a county-funded program that provides almost 8,000 people with a monthly cash grant for a single person of up to $336. To be eligible for GA in Alameda County, an individual must have no other means of support and must participate in employment service activities. All GA money is considered a loan and recipients must sign a reimbursement agreement as a condition of eligibility. This is NET the first time that the poorest among us have been targeted for cuts. The last time cuts were proposed it took over a year of activism to avert them from being imposed.

“It is important to stay on top of the budget and the supervisors’ feelings about the time limits,” said Luan Huynh from the East Bay Community Law Center, as she explained plans to keep our communities safe and healthy.” We will be looking for three votes on the five-member board as we check in with the members. While some are optimistic, we need to be prepared for the distinct possibility that the board will vote a budget in June that contemplates the cut. The last time a GA time limit took place, it took us a year to undo it…Things are no easier today. We need to be prepared for the long haul,” she said.

“It’s our money! It’s our society! No GA cuts!” voiced Laure McElroy, a POOR Magazine organizer, in support of the idea that these time limits will be harmful to the entire county of Alameda. The powerful affirmative response of the crowd bounced off the glistening waters of Lake Merritt located across the street.

“There is no free money” proclaimed POOR Magazine co- founder and executive director Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, as she clutched a small loudspeaker tightly in her hands. “We work for our money. I am someone who has barely lived on GA. Without it I would not have survived. Stop the criminalization of poverty,” she said powerfully.

The point being driven home is that the proposed time limits is yet another example of our government being penny wise and pound foolish But we were there to do more than just protest, we were there to prevent the time limits from being imposed.

Ronnie Watkins, a 61-year-old Vietnam veteran, spoke in a strong calm voice as he declared ”The day for the cut off has not happened. There is time to stop it from happening.” The plans were to cut off most of the County’s General Assistance recipients on July 1st , but those plans were strongly contested as we all squeezed inside the Board of Supervisors Chambers Room to speak to the Alameda County Supervisors. It was time to school the politicians, physicians, educators, lawyers and bureaucrats about the devastation these cuts would do to our cities and citizens

A young man reluctantly strode forward the podium as his named was called. He started his three minutes by nervously fidgeted with the microphone. After he gathered himself he looked directly at the supervisors elevated in their seat above us, and said “I do not want to be on GA, but I have to support my child, I will do what I have to legal or illegal to support my child. I don’t care if I don’t eat but I have to think of my child,” he said, his voice cutting through the silent meeting room.

This statement reminded us all that these cuts are affecting our neighbors, friends and family. There is more at stake than just percentages numbers and talking points.
Poet, journalist and digital resister Ruyata Akio Mcglothin(RAM) provided a powerful dose of poverty scholarship as he explained,” I’m taking care of three and tryin’ to keep a job. One of the kids I’m taking care of is not mine I’ve been dealing with a disability since I’ve been sixteen. This is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I just don’t understand cutting GA to the people who need it.”

As I returned home after the hearing I kept remembering what Laure McElroy’s voice: “It’s our money! It’s our community!” Let’s make sure our community remains healthy, vibrant and safe. No G.A. cuts.


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