Advocates For The Poor Face An Uncertain Future

October 13, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Even though her husband is working now for the first time in months,Christine Gray still relies on surplus food and donations to stretchher meager monthly budget.

Boxes of canned goods, staples and toiletries allow her to spend most of her food stamps on meat, dairy products and formula for her infant son. When times were really rough last winter, Gray was a regular customer at Anne Arundel's food bank inDeale. She used to pick up a bag of groceries to tide her family over nearly every week.

"When people are living close to the edge, food is one of the things they cut back on," said Bruce Michalec, director of the food bank. "They can't cut out rent, they can't cut out car payments. What's left?"

Michalec and other service providers fear more families thanever will need help this winter as the recession continues and the state cuts back programs.

Even though Gov. William Donald Schaefer's latest budget plan would resurrect many drug treatment, medical assistance and welfare benefits, advocates for the poor still are worried.

Counselors from Hope House, Samaritan House and other Anne Arundel residential programs continued to rally at the state capital Thursday and Friday to protest the elimination of any state support for addictions treatment. Although Schaefer's compromise plan calls for restoring nearly half the $9.3 million in state aid for drug and alcohol treatment centers, many counselors and recovering addicts fear the programs won't survive.

"Our intent is to stay open as long as we can with whatever money we have," said Robert Harge, president of Hope House's board of trustees. "But it's going to be very, very difficult for our program to operate unless we have practically full funding. We may well have to close come November."

Other social service providers in the county were uncertain about the future. While some were pleased by at least a partial restoration of state aid, others said their programs were in jeopardy.

"Half is better than nothing," said Adel O'Rourke, director of the Harundale Youth and Family Service Center, one of Maryland's 22 centers for troubled youth. The recreation and counseling centers would receive half of their state supportrather than none, as was recommended in Schaefer's first budget-slashing plan.

But O'Rourke said she wasn't sure how the center could make up the lost money, especially since the plan announced last weekwould cut $17.2 million in aid to Anne Arundel County.

Schaefer'scompromise with legislative leaders would salvage the state-financedGeneral Public Assistance for poor people who can't work because of short-term disabilities. More than 700 temporarily disabled residentsin the county, many of whom are scraping by on $205 a month, would continue to receive benefits.

But the county's more than 3,400 single mothers would lose an even greater chunk of their monthly welfare benefits. Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the state's largest welfare program, would be cut by 7 percent instead of 2.5 percent.

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