ANNAPOLIS – Over 200 advocates for the poor gatheredThursday to challenge Del. Howard “Pete” Rawlings, D-Baltimore,for his support of welfare initiatives they say are too punitiveand ignore the real problem: job creation.
The advocates, who spent half the day lobbying lawmakers,also demanded more voice in the reform process.
“We agree the current welfare system is broken and needs tobe fundamentally changed,” said Craig Miles of the Maryland FoodCommittee. “However, if it is not changed with input from thosetrapped in poverty, any solution is doomed to failure.”
Rawlings met the group at Asbury United Methodist Church, inthe shadow of the Statehouse, where the pews were filled withwelfare recipients and organizers.
Rawlings said he would support current funding levels fornutrition programs aiding women, infants, children and seniors.But he stuck hard to the reform proposals under fire.
Members of the Coalition to End Hunger are opposed toprovisions of Rawling’s welfare reform bill, including:
– The so-called family cap, which would deny welfarepayments to children born of pregnancies begun after a woman goeson welfare.
– A “welfare to work” program, which critics say doesn’taddress the need for job creation across the state.
“The answer is to create jobs that pay living wages somothers can get off welfare and feed their families,” said DaphneHerling, a statewide organizer for the committee.
Tension rose when coalition members said the reason welfarestill needs reforming is because legislators never asked actualrecipients how it should work.
“This is just political posturing. We have made everyopportunity for people to be at the welfare table,” he said,adding that the legislative process allows anyone to take part bytestifying, writing letters and making phone calls.
Recipients had a chance to participate last year on acommission that helped draft a welfare bill nearly identical tothis year’s, he said. The only change is the addition of the”family cap.”
Former welfare recipient Yvette Smith of Eastport wasn’tsatisfied. “They are on the mountain, we are in the valley. Wehave to let them know how things are,” she said.
Miles said people like Smith are the experts. “We need toget them involved at early stages, before the bills are drafted,”he said.
Rawlings was targeted because he is chairman of the HouseAppropriations Committee, which must approve all welfare reformplans submitted by the state. -30-