Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke worked so quietly to save the Disability Assistance and Loan Program that most people didn't even know he was involved in the battle. Maybe if he had taken this fight to the people, DALP would have been saved. As it is, his style of quiet diplomacy has not convinced Gov. Parris N. Glendening to keep the welfare program. And that's going to hurt Baltimore.
DALP gives about 20,000 adults, most of them Baltimore residents, a monthly stipend of $157. That costs Maryland about $34 million a year. About half the recipients also receive free medical care through DALP, at an annual cost of $13.5 million. The rest are eligible for Medicaid.
Service providers believe ending DALP could mean more homeless panhandlers, more hungry people outside soup kitchens and more non-paying patients at hospital emergency rooms in this city.
That's one reason heavy criticism was aimed at the mayor after he released a June 13 letter he wrote to Mr. Glendening asking him to reconsider his DALP decision. People who didn't know otherwise accused Mr. Schmoke of doing too little, too late. Actually the mayor had been asking Mr. Glendening not to end DALP since before the governor was inaugurated. It's just that few people knew it.
Not wanting to oppose the new governor publicly, Mr. Schmoke wrote letters on Jan. 17 and Feb. 7 asking Mr. Glendening to save DALP. He followed up the letters with conversations and meetings.
It was all to no avail. Mr. Glendening believes the state should provide specific services for the poor instead of giving them cash to make ends meet until they qualify for other aid or find work.
The governor's budget does include $10 million in housing rTC vouchers for disabled adults and $6.9 million for a reduced health care program. But 5,000 of Baltimore's DALP recipients won't get any of that aid, and the other 11,000 will only get a housing voucher of $50 a month or rental assistance of $125 a month. It's not enough.
Mr. Schmoke thinks he did all he should to save DALP. "It's clear that I didn't participate in any demonstrations on the matter, but I certainly brought to the governor's attention my concerns and a proposal, which was to defer the cut in DALP this year and have the whole program reviewed so he could come back and make decisions on the matter in his second legislative term," he said.
But Mr. Glendening wouldn't do for DALP what he is doing on gun control and education funding. He wouldn't wait to decide what's best. That leaves Baltimoreans wondering what if Mr. Schmoke had been more vocal. Maybe more people would have joined the fight had they known the mayor was in one. Their voices together might have saved DALP.