Schaefer's Cuts Widen Holes In The Welfare Safety Net

October 06, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

Debbie Turner considers herself lucky.

Even with Gov. William Donald Schaefer -- who makes $120,000 a year -- trimming the amount of money she takes in from Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the Westminster mother of two is glad to be getting anything.

"Hey, I appreciate what I get," she said last week outside the De

partment of Social Services office on Distillery Road in Westminster. "At least they're not saying, 'No, we can't help you.' "

At least for now, they're not.

Turner can expect about a $10 cut in the $390 a month she and her children receive in health benefits, food stamps and assistance as a result of the governor's plan to cut nearly $450 million from Maryland's $11 billion budget.

More than 630 families in Carroll depend on AFDC money, offi

cials say.

Ten dollars may not sound like much to people with a home, a job, an incomeand a little bit of money in the bank. But to people served by the Department of Social Services' 100 Carroll employees, any cut can be devastating.

"The state already has admitted that it doesn't even give people the basic minimum they need to live on," said Alan Katz, the department's assistant director in Carroll. "And now they're coming in and saying they want to cut that. If you're already down to the bone, then it becomes time to start slicing the bone."

Social programs, the government safety net, are hit hard by the governor's deficit-reduction plan.

The state's General Public Assistance welfare program is being eliminated Nov. 1, leaving more than 60 Carroll residents who depend on the $157-a-month program without that income, Katz

said. That cut will save the governor a total of $117,000 in Carroll.

"These are people who are absolutely destitute, who have no assets, no income, nothing," he said. "Without GPA, I don't know who will provide for them."

AFDC, the program that provides supplemental help to families who need to clothe, house, feed and take care of children, will see reductions of 2.5 percent in January.

Money for the 21 children placed in foster homes here will be slashed by 3 percent, the department said.

"This will affect health care, nutrition, basic needs," Katz said. "People will die if they can't get help. This already is a last-resort place to turn."

Another of Carroll's last resorts is already turning people away.

The four homeless shelters run by Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc. have in recent weeks had waiting lists of up to 28 people. The agency eliminated the waiting list for its 12-bed men's shelter because it ran out of money for the facility.

Carroll and state officials are particularly concerned about the cuts to social programs because the demand for them has been increasing over the last year.

Social Services figures show that in Carroll, the number of people requesting medical assistance grew 44 percent between January 1990 and this July to 2,073; the number of families using AFDC funds jumped nearly 30 percent inthe same period; and the number requesting food stamps during the same period rose 20 percent, to 1,103 people.

County Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said last week that he considers social programs a big priority of government. But he didn't rule out cuts in the county-funded portion of social program budgets.

"These cuts are a ripple effect that really grow to tidal wave preportions," he said. As a partial measure, the commissioners and their executive assistant are putting the call out to private charities and volunteers to try to pick up some of the dropped or cut social programs.

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