February 17, 2007
By COLIN POITRAS, Courant Staff Writer
State legislators last authorized a cost-of-living adjustment for welfare recipients in 1992. In the past 15 years, utility costs and the costs of other basic needs have soared.
During that same decade and a half, state lawmakers gave themselves two pay raises.
That just isn't fair, said Susan Reynolds, a member of a Hartford-based advocacy group that helped organize a rally for young single mothers Friday at the state Capitol complex.
Rosaline Sanchez, for example, and her two boys, ages 3 and 7, receive $895 a month in state welfare assistance, excluding food stamps. Her monthly rent, electric, gas and other utility bills exceed $1,200.
It is not difficult to do the math. Every day is a struggle to keep her children warm and fed.
"Sometimes my mother-in-law has to ask people for a handout," Sanchez, 23, of East Hartford, said Friday.
On top of everything else, Sanchez said, she just lost her job at a local hotel.
"I'll probably lose my light and my gas, but I'm going to make my rent. I'll find a way," she said.
Sanchez and more than a dozen other single mothers - many of them just steps away from a homeless shelter or struggling like Sanchez to keep their families safe and warm - called on lawmakers to approve a cost-of-living increase for residents on state assistance.
Simply put, they said, they need it to survive.
"We're not asking for anyone to give us a handout," said Reynolds, 48, a member of Single Mothers on the Move. "We're asking for the programs that are in place to be run fairly and properly."
Two state legislators who attended the rally, both of whom are former single mothers on welfare, agreed that something should be done.
"Having been in the same position as many of these ladies on two separate occasions, I can relate to their having a need for financial support to raise a child," said state Rep. Marie Lopez Kirkley-Bey, D-Hartford.
Kirkley-Bey has introduced legislation that would increase aid to those receiving temporary family state assistance from $333 a month to $450 for the first child and from $100 to $150 a month for each subsequent child over the age of 1. The bill has been pending before the Committee on Human Services for more than a month, waiting for a public hearing.
State Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, struggled to raise three small children in the early 1980s.
"We create a system that is against the working poor," Gonzalez said Friday. "We have to do something because these people are members of our society."
Sabrina Flintroy of Hartford gets angry when people insinuate single mothers on welfare are lazy. She has been out of work for five years. During that time, she says, she has filled out more than 400 job applications. With no money for bus fare, she makes a 3-mile walk to Westfarms mall twice a week to seek work.
A former special education student, Flintroy, 36, says she has trouble completing computer-generated job applications. Her 21 months of welfare benefits ran out long ago. She keeps herself and her three children, ages 16, 13 and 5, housed and fed through federal Section 8 housing assistance and $500 a month in food stamps.
But it's no way to live, she said.
"Right now I have no money to pay for light. My lights are off. If it wasn't for Section 8, me and my children would be out on the street."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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