ACT UP Keeps Pressure on Gov. Corbett Over Cuts to General Assistance Programs
Philadelphians are mad at Gov. Corbett. This morning, that anger was outwardly focused at the Voter ID legislation, the challenge of which was heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in City Hall. But ACT UP Philadelphia also held a rally today outside Corbett’s office. Their gripe with the governor: His budget cutting off general assistance funds for the poor, sick and disabled.
ACT UP, an AIDS and HIV prevention organization, says they were promised a meeting with the governor over what was being done to replace GA cuts in the state. According to the group’s Facebook page, today’s rally was meant to “return to the Governor’s Philadelphia Office to ask, where is the meeting you promised us?”
Waheedah Shabazz-El, a coordinator for the U.S. Positive Women’s Network-Philadelphia, led the group, and noted there’s a lot the governor doesn’t seem to get.
“What [cutting the General Assistance] act has done is put people in survival mode,” she tells PW. “GA is just assistance, it’s not the golden staircase. It’s not the staircase to success, it’s not a handout, it’s a hand up. And what kind of people are we, what kind of world are we living in, what kind of message are we sending to the future people of this world if we’re not willing to help the poor?”
On Aug. 1, Pennsylvania cut off about $200 per month for an estimated 61,000 people. The General Assistance program helped the state save about $149 million, as Corbett has, for the second year in a row, held his promise to not raise taxes in the state. He has, however, provided state subsidies for large corporations in the state.
And while the cuts have hurt the most vulnerable, Shabazz-El notes the cash cutoff is just part of the problem ACT UP and groups like it have been facing since the AIDS epidemic began.
“There is an HIV pandemic going on around the world and it’s the government’s responsibility to respond to this medical crisis,” she says. “Instead of responding, they’re copping out and blaming individuals for individual risk when we have a systemic risk. We have legislation that systemically puts thousands of people at risk for HIV.”
Around noon, ACT UP met NAACP leaders at the Municipal Services building. Those in the ACT UP rally noted Voter ID is part of the same systemic problem the state seems to have with the commonwealth’s poor.