Re: Women challenge welfare cutoffs in lawsuit: Colorado FWD

Judy Olsen (wholedamnpie@uswest.net)
Sat, 06 Mar 1999 14:40:58 -0800


I'm very glad these women got mad enough to DO something about this shit.  We can thank Clinton and all of the other spineless Repubicrats for
voting for this shit.
Judy O

Tom Boland wrote:

> FWD  [URL & date from recent article missing: sorry.]
>
> WOMEN CHALLENGE WELFARE SYSTEM
>
> Lawsuit claims state and counties sent vague warning,
> then illegally punished thousands
>
> By Carla Crowder
> News Staff Writer
>
> Frances Weston just wanted to show the welfare workers a doctor's note.
>
> The 54-year-old grandmother has diabetes and high blood pressure and
> recently had a heart attack. She thought the doctor's note would show that
> she couldn't work and Social Services would stop reducing her check.
>
> Instead, within four months, Weston's welfare check for her five
> grandchildren dropped from $590 a month to nothing. She never fully
> understood why she was losing the benefits or how she could fix it.
>
> Now Weston is one of three women suing the state and Denver and Adams
> counties over the way their cases were handled.
>
> Four Denver law firms are representing the three women for free. The
> attorneys hope to turn the case into a class-action lawsuit; they say more
> than 1,000 welfare recipients have illegally punished.
>
> The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Denver District Court, accuses
> the three entities of illegally "sanctioning" or punishing thousands of
> welfare recipients by sending vague computer-generated letters that don't
> tell recipients what they've done wrong.
>
> "These people want to participate. They want to comply. And they would if
> they knew what they were supposed to do," said Chris Beall, one of the
> attorneys representing the women.
>
> State and county welfare officials declined comment Wednesday, saying they
> had not had a chance to review the lawsuit.
>
> In the past, welfare managers said they were working to remedy shortcomings
> in the sanction notices. They've said they're trying to be fair, but many
> recipients refused to follow welfare reform's new rules.
>
> The first notices contained erroneous information about appeals. They also
> read like  multiple-choice quizzes, say attorneys for recipients who have
> been fighting this issue for months.
>
> The notices told recipients they were losing benefits either because they
> failed to work, failed to prove their children were immunized or failed to
> help the state collect their child support, but not which one.
>
> Officials of the state Department of Human Services, who oversee county
> welfare programs, repeatedly have warned counties that they must give
> recipients details about the sanctions. If not, the sanctions are illegal
> and can be reversed if a recipient gets a lawyer and appeals.
>
> But many counties have not heeded this warning, said Maureen Farrell,
> director of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, which has been working
> on the issue since spring.
>
> The lawsuit "is not about challenging welfare reform. Our system as it's
> set up can be a good one. But you've got to balance fairness and
> flexibility," Farrell said Wednesday.
>
> Beall said the lawsuit asks that welfare benefits be restored to people who
> were illegally sanctioned. It also asks the state to revise the notices.
>
> "The old ones were bad, give the money back. The new ones are bad, stop
> using them. And in the future, get your act together," Beall said.
>
> He thinks most recipients don't know their rights. They've silently dropped
> off the welfare rolls without challenging their social workers.
>
> It's taken many lawyers and government officials to figure out how the
> sanction rules work. A young mother with barely a high school education
> stands little chance against this mystery, attorneys say.
>
> The sanctions are progressive. After the first violation, recipients lose a
> quarter of their allowance, then half, then the entire stipend.
>
> "The consequences of these (notification) procedures are draconian, and if
> you're unable to figure out these notices in time, you're going to lose a
> lot of money and might even be on the streets," Beall said.
>
> In fact, two of the plaintiffs are homeless, according to the lawsuit,
> including Weston, who was evicted from her apartment in October.
>
> END FORWARD
>
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