Grassroots Group Demands Long-Awaited Cost of Living Increase in State Assistance
February 21-28, 2007
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
“We’re angry and we’re not going away,” said West End resident Susan Reynolds at a press conference held last Friday at the Legislative Office Building by Single Mothers on the Move (SMOTM), an outgrowth of Hartford Organizing for Power and Equality (HOPE).
While speakers at the event listed several demands, their main objective is to secure a cost of living increase in various state programs created to serve the poor, including Temporary Family Assistance, State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA) and the State Supplement for People with Disabilities.
The State Legislature has not authorized a cost of living increase since 1991 – while prices have risen dramatically in the past 16 years. A cost of living increase was not included in the State budget recently proposed by Governor Jodi Rell.
Reynolds said the current level of assistance is simply not enough for a family to survive. “Some mothers are getting only $443 a month. I make $400 a week and I can barely afford my apartment...it’s expensive out there,” she said and added, “51 percent of households in the United States are run by single mothers...we are nurturing your future.”
Reliance on state assistance has become necessary due to the difficulty of finding jobs with adequate pay. A release from SMOTM stated that many mothers can only find temporary, seasonal or minimum wage jobs, leaving them with an income insufficient to support their families.
Sabrina Flintroy of SMOTM challenged the notion that mothers who are unemployed do not want to work.
“I’ve filed 450 [job] applications in the past five years. I walk back and forth to West Farms Mall from my house. Do you call that lazy? We’re looking for a hand up and a way out,” said Flintroy.
The prevalence of single parent households in Hartford was demonstrated by the fact that the two legislators who spoke at the event, State Representatives Minnie Gonzalez (D-3rd) and Marie Kirkley-Bey (D-5th) both stated that they too were once single mothers relying on state assistance to support their families.
Gonzalez said, “I was a welfare mom with three kids. I slept on the floor. I know what you’re going through. I want to be a voice for single mothers.”
Kirkley-Bey has introduced a bill into the legislature that would increase state payments to women with one child from $333 to $450, plus $150 for each additional child, rather than the current $100.
“It’s a start,” said Kirkley-Bey. The bill is pending.
Kirkley-Bey also encouraged SMOTM members to keep pressing for increased funding and other improvements in the state’s assistance programs. “You ladies have to be committed to not giving up. The system will try to beat you down. Don’t let it,” said Kirkley-Bey.
In addition to the cost of living increase, SMOTM is also requesting that the food stamp program be expanded to include certain necessary toiletry items in addition to food; more privacy at the State Office building in Hartford at 3580 Main Street; a reconsideration of the 21-month limit on state assistance; assistance for those who are seeking employment; and Section 8 vouchers for all who qualify.