WHEREAS, on March 24, 1995, as part of the Contract with America, the House of Representatives passed the Personal Responsibility Act (HR 4), which dramatically restricts many federal welfare programs;
WHEREAS, on Sept. 19, 1995, the Senate passed its own welfare legislation (S. 1120);
WHEREAS, both the House and Senate versions of the Personal Responsibility Act would end the entitlement of eligible persons to assistance by replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children with block grants to the states;
WHEREAS, states receiving block grants based on allocations in prior years are at risk of running out of federal funds for cash assistance in times of economic recession, increased unemployment or population growth;
WHEREAS, these bills would eliminate federal civil rights protections which were created to remedy the long history in many of states of discrimination in the provision of welfare benefits on the basis of race and marital status (see F. Piven and R. Cloward, Regulating the Poor 130-135 (2nd ed. 1993); Michael B. Katz, In the Shadow of the Poorhouse 253 (1986));
WHEREAS, both the House and the Senate versions of the Personal Responsibility Act drastically reduce the funds available for education, job training and child care, which are essential to making self-sufficiency through employment possible for poor families;
WHEREAS, both the House and Senate versions of the Personal Responsibility Act establish a five-year drop dead time limit (or less at state option) after which poor families could be denied any cash assistance even if no jobs or child care were available;
WHEREAS, neither the House nor the Senate versions of the Personal Responsibility Act consider or respond to the relationship between violence against women and the need for welfare, without which a domestic violence victim may be financially unable to escape her abuser;
WHEREAS, cash assistance could be denied or reduced to children whose paternity has not yet been legally established, even though delays in paternity establishment are often due to backlogs in the courts and the child support system which are beyond the control of the welfare recipient;
WHEREAS, HR 4 mandates and S. 1120 permits states to enact a child exclusion or family cap provision which would permanently deny cash assistance to children born to a woman receiving welfare, even if the child was conceived as a result of sexual abuse or contraceptive failure;
WHEREAS, child exclusion provisions seek to coerce poor women in constitutionally protected reproductive decisions by forcing welfare recipients who become pregnant to choose between keeping their babies and receiving sufficient assistance to feed their families;
WHEREAS, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits would be terminated to 250,000 poor disabled children and, under HR 4, cash SSI benefits would be denied in the future to nearly all disabled children, no matter how severe their impairments;
WHEREAS, law-abiding, tax-paying legal immigrants and even naturalized citizens would be excluded from eligibility for federal benefits, from foster care to federally insured student loans, in violation of their constitutional rights (Takahashi v. Fish and Game Comm., 334 U.S. 410 (1948));
WHEREAS, the denial of medical benefits to those in need will force those at risk to wait until the problems become severe before seeking help, thereby driving up the cost of treatment.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association opposes the various versions of the Personal Responsibility Act, such as HR 4 and S. 1120, now making their way through Congress.
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor is authorized to communicate the Association's opposition to various versions of the Personal Responsibility Act, such as HR 4 and S. 1120, and parallel legislation to the appropriate authorities, the Association members, the public at large and the media.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: September 28, 1995