ANNAPOLIS – A car accident left Jerry Lynch of Rockville with a glass eye and no job.
He qualifies as a poor, single, disabled adult, so the state gives him a monthly grant. But it’s only half of his $250 monthly rent. To pay the difference, to buy clothes, and to buy food: he looks to “friends” for help.
“It’s not enough to survive,” Lynch said of the grant.
He and hundreds of other poor residents and advocates want legislators to know their stories, so they gathered in front of the State House Tuesday, chanting “wake up Maryland” in an annual rally sponsored by the Center for Poverty Solutions.
Busloads of church members and students from schools across the state cheered and waved signs in support, all urging legislators to help fight poverty in one of the richest states in the country.
Under Gov. Parris Glendening’s proposed budget, disabled residents like Lynch would receive $53 more a month. That still wouldn’t pay the rent, but it is enough for Lynch to fight for, talking to legislators with the power to cut the small, but useful increase.
“It’s not enough but we’re grateful for the increase,” said Frank Callahan, a Harford County pastor. “It’s in the budget and it’s our job to keep it in the budget.”
For low-wage taxpayers with children, there needs to be an increase in the refundable state earned-income tax credit, advocates said.
Still, advocates thanked Glendening for some measures: budget increases for the Maryland Emergency Food Program and the in-classroom breakfast pilot program, which provides breakfast to all students in selected schools.
Affordable housing got short shrift, however.
“Uncle Parris didn’t fund it this year,” said Ed Heim of Interfaith Housing of Western Maryland.
So, many advocates are asking Glendening to add $2 million for housing programs in any supplemental budget he submits.
“The governor did the right thing but there are a few things outstanding,” said Robert Hess, president of the Center for Poverty Solutions. “He’s still got some work to do.”
“Poor people are watching,” Hess said, adding that poor people vote. “So if you fail this year, it could cost you.”
Glendening was in Washington at a National Governor’s Association meeting and didn’t attend the rally.
Alvin Collins, the governor’s deputy chief of staff told the crowd, “We’re listening to you and we know the issues.” But, he warned, “thousands of others are bringing issues that are just as impressive.”