Cut welfare cash: BALLOT MEASURE on GA urged by SF businesses FWD

Tom Boland (
Wed, 12 May 1999 22:25:21 -0700 (PDT)

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Why do you think business interests are pushing cuts in cash entitlements
to people on welfare?

San Franciscans and others, what do you think of proposed ballot initiative
urged by local merchants, cited in the article below?

Do homeless people benefit when welfare checks are cut?  Why or why not?
FWD  San Francisco Examiner - May 3, 1999


     They seek ballot measure to change general assistance

     Gregory Lewis of the Examiner Staff

Saying they want to keep poor people from spending their
welfare checks on drugs and alcohol, some local merchants
want to put a plan on the ballot to cut cash benefits for
San Francisco's General Assistance recipients.

The idea is to give GA recipients only 15 percent of their
benefits in cash - while the remaining 85 percent would go
for services such as housing, addiction treatment and job

The Hotel Council and a group of 40 business owners and
merchants have rallied behind former City Human Services
commissioner Earl Rynerson, who is lobbying Mayor Willie
Brown and the Board of Supervisors to place the measure on
the November ballot.

People on GA - who are not in a welfare work program -
receive $287 a month. Rynerson, who wants that cut to $43 a
month, said  "we want to ensure the money (The City's)
spending is not being spent on drugs and alcohol."

The idea elicited a terse response from Steve Williams of
People Organized to Win Employee Rights (POWER):  "It's a
stupid proposal. All they're trying to do is control
people's money. The problem is not how poor people spend
their money. The problem is poor people don't have enough

"There is not enough affordable housing, substance
abuse treatment or permanent job opportunities that
provide a living wage for poor people,"  Williams said.

Rynerson countered that San Francisco's network of
services is  "second to none . . . and on top of the
services, we provide a cash service. We have a
responsibility to see that every needy individual
receives the services they need."

Brown has not seen a final version of the proposed ballot
measure and has yet to say whether he supports putting it
on the ballot.

"The mayor is always concerned that GA dollars are put to
appropriate use,"  said Brown spokeswoman Kandace

The merchants backing the initiative say they're
motivated by concern about how homelessness affects
their ability to carry on commerce.

"We've formed an organization to help Rynerson with his
initiative,"  said David Heller of the Greater Geary
Merchants Association, who was chosen by the merchant
groups and business owners to head an organization they
call  "San Franciscans for Responsible Homeless

"The City actually spends more than $60 million on the
homeless,"  Heller said.  "You still have to shelter
them, you have hospital costs. It's costing us more money.
No city in the United States gives out the kind of cash we

Rynerson said if he and his colleagues fail to persuade
city officials to place the measure on the ballot, he will
go the traditional route to qualify an initiative by
gathering at least 10,500 signatures.

In explaining why he wants to change how The City pays the
poor, Rynerson cited municipal studies from 1995 and
1996, which he stated show that between 65 and 90 percent
of homeless people in San Francisco are substance abusers
and that 70 percent on GA are not city residents.

He said the money saved from cash payouts could be used to
erect more shelters that could house people longer and
provide them with on-site services.

Williams, of POWER, called Rynerson's proposal mere
political grandstanding.

"If he was really serious about helping poor people, he
would be pushing proposals about getting more treatment
on demand, passing a living wage ordinance, more housing
and permanent jobs for low-income people,"  he said.
 "He's trying to get blood from a stone,"  Williams
continued,  "attack and bleed poor people for his own
personal gain."

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**

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