Sunday, February 26, 2012

Disability rights group puts Coomonwealth on notice about Voter Registration Act violations

The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRN) has put the Pennsylvania Department of State on notice that it is in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (see entire letter below), especially in terms of complying with the rights of persons with disabilities.

The Commonwealth has a poor record of complying with the NVRA.  This appears to be one more component of a system which tries to limit voter eligibility, either by design or neglect.


February 22, 2012


Carol Aichele
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Pennsylvania Department of State
302 North Office Building
401 North Street
Harrisburg, PA  17120-0500
Fax:  717-787-1734

Re: Notice of Non-Compliance with Section 7 of the
National Voter Registration Act

Dear Secretary Aichele:
On behalf of the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRN), the organization designated by the Commonwealth under federal law to protect the rights of and advocate for people with disabilities, I am submitting this notice pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-9(b)(1) to advise the Department of State (DOS) that it is in violation of Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).  As detailed below, DOS has violated the NVRA by failing to:  (1) designate as mandatory voter registration agencies (VRAs) all disability services offices in the Commonwealth, and (2) assure that disability services offices that are designated as VRAs fully comply with the requirements of the NVRA.
Section 7 of the NVRA requires, inter alia, that Pennsylvania designate as mandatory VRAs "all offices in the State that provide State-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities."  42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-5(2)(B).  As VRAs, disability services offices must:  (1) distribute voter registration forms; (2) assist applicants to complete those forms; and (3) accept completed forms and forward them to the appropriate election official.  42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-5(a)(4)(A).  These services must be provided in the person's home if the VRA provides disability services in the person's home.  42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-5(a)(4)(B).  Voter registration applications must be offered with each application for assistance, each recertification or renewal, and each change of address unless the individual declines the opportunity to register in writing.  42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-5(a)(6)(A)(i).  Finally, disability services offices must provide individuals who want to register to vote with the same assistance to complete the application as those offices provide to complete their own forms, unless the applicant refuses assistance.  42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-5(a)(6)(C).

A. Pennsylvania's Failure to Designate All Disability
Services Offices as Mandatory VRAs.
Many disability services offices (i.e., agencies that primarily provide services to people with disabilities that are funded by the Commonwealth) are not considered by DOS to be mandatory VRAs and, therefore, do not engage in any of the voter registration activities required by Section 7 of the NVRA.  Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare (DPW), the state agency that funds most services for people with disabilities, does not provide disability services directly other than through a few state-operated institutions.  Instead, DPW or its subcontractors pay private agencies to provide almost all disability services.  For instance:
§     DPW provides state funds to county MH/ID programs to provide com­munity services to people with mental illness and intellectual disabilities.  The counties, in turn, pass on much of those funds to private entities to provide a range of disability services.  Many of these private entities not only provide services, but also assist their clients to apply for services and to pursue recertification and renewal. It is our understanding that these private entities do not offer service recipients voter registration opportunities.
§     DPW contracts with a private entity, MAXIMUS, to take applications for five Medical Assistance-funded home and community based waivers.  MAXIMUS assists the individuals with those applications, including submitting the necessary paperwork to the County Assistance Offices for financial eligibility determinations.  It is our understanding that MAXIMUS does not offer applicants voter registration opportunities.
§     DPW contracts with many private agencies to provide Supports Coordination and direct care services to people who receive services under the Medical Assistance Waivers and Act 150 program administered by the Office of Long Term Living.  With the exceptions of the Centers for Independent Living, it is our understanding that these private agencies do not offer service recipients voter registration opportunities.
Any dispute that these DPW-funded disability services offices do not comply with the NVRA has been laid to rest by DPW.  In response to a request submitted pursuant to the Right to Know Law, DPW confirmed that its contracts with private agencies do not include "any provision that commits the contractor to be a VRA."
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently filed a lawsuit against Rhode Island, alleging that it violated Section 7 of the NVRA.  In a Consent Decree to resolve that lawsuit, Rhode Island agreed that all offices that provide state-funded disability services, "including those operated by private entities on the state's behalf, ... must be designated as ‘voter registration agencies.’"  United States v. Rhode Island, Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-00113-S, Consent Decree at 5 (D.R.I. Mar. 18, 2011), available at  The Consent Decree required Rhode Island's Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals to amend its contracts with private entities who are engaged in providing services to people with disabilities "to ensure that they provide voter registration opportunities as required by Section 7 of the NVRA."  Id. at 11-12.
Pennsylvania cannot avoid its obligations under the NVRA simply because the responsibility to provide state-funded disability services is delegated to local or even private entities.  See United States v. New York, 700 F. Supp. 2d 186, 205 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).  Pennsylvania must assure that local and private entities that provide state-funded disability services implement the voter registration requirements mandated by Section 7 of the NVRA.

B. Pennsylvania's Failure to Assure that Disability Services
Offices Identified as VRAs Comply with their Obligations
Aside from Pennsylvania's failure to designate all disability services offices as mandatory VRAs, Pennsylvania has also failed to assure that disability services offices that are designated as VRAs comply with the requirements of Section 7 of the NVRA.
In Fiscal Year 2010-11, there were 534,000 persons receiving mental health services (including nearly 124,500 using community mental health funds and nearly 380,400 using Medical Assistance funds) and nearly 51,000 persons receiving services for intellectual disabilities or autism.  Governor's Executive Budget 2011-12 at E35.4335.44.  Most of these individuals must have their re-eligibility certified annually.  Yet, DOS's Report to the General Assembly on Voter Registration indicates that fewer than 45,000 individuals were offered voter preference forms by the County MH/MR Programs.  DOS, 2010 Administration of Voter Registration in Pennsylvania: Report to the General Assembly App. G (June 2011).  Plainly, there are a large number of DPW clients who have disabilities who are not offered voter registration opportunities in accordance with the NVRA. The data raise additional questions about compliance.  DOS's 2010 Report shows that about 40,500 of the approximately 45,000 persons offered voter registration by County MH/MR Programs declined the offers.  The same report indicates that 22,350 of the 25,000 persons offered voter registration by "Disability Agencies" declined the offers.  This would suggest that County MH/MR Offices and the Disability Agencies registered more than 7,000 voters in 2010.  DOS's Voter Registration by County breakdown, however, shows that only 670 individuals were registered by the County MH/MR Programs and Disability Agencies.
Disability services offices that receive funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) also appear not to comply with the NVRA.  PDE funds local school districts to provide education and other services to students with disabilities.  PDE's Basic Education Circulars (BECs) indicate that schools should discuss voter registration with students with disabilities who have an Individualized Program Plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or service agreements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and 22 Pa. Code Ch. 15.  The BECs, however, allow parents to decide whether to include voter registration as part of the students' IEPs or service agreements.  Moreover, the BECs do not require school districts to have students or parents sign declinations forms or otherwise track whether registration was offered unless the students agree to have voter registration included in their IEPs and service agreements.  Not surprising, the evidence suggests that few students with disabilities are offered voter registration opportunities.  In 2009, only 22 special education students registered to vote according to DOS data.
C. DRN's Request to Remedy These Violations
In requiring state-funded disability services offices to act as VRAs, Congress recognized that people with disabilities are underrepresented among voters.  Since these individuals frequently are poor and lack access to many of the mainstream opportunities for voter registration (such as driver registration), Congress required those agencies with frequent, one-to-one contact with individuals with disabilities to offer them the opportunity to register to vote.
For the past several years, DRN and other advocacy groups have advocated that DOS take the steps necessary to remedy the violations described in this letter.  Despite meeting after meeting, our advocacy efforts have yielded no concrete action.  In the absence of any remedy from DOS, DRN has spent a great deal of time, efforts, and resources to educate Pennsylvanians with disabilities, their families, and advocates about their right to register to vote and to encourage them to exercise that right.
Our efforts to educate people with disabilities about voter registration are not a substitute for enforcement of the NVRA.  Accordingly, DRN requests that DOS develop a comprehensive plan to remedy Pennsylvania's non-compliance with the NVRA.  We are willing to work with you to develop such a plan.  If DOS is unwilling to do so, DRN will consider our other alternatives available under the NVRA.


Carol Horowitz
Managing Attorney

Friday, February 24, 2012

An open letter: "Yes, Virginia. There is a state more demeaning to women than you."

You’ve probably heard about the Virginia ultrasound bill that has been in the news.

But did you realize Pennsylvania has a bill pending that’s even worse? The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is poised to take up HB1077, the disingenuously titled “Women’s Right to Know Act”.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

REPORT: More PA Kids Live Where Poverty Is Widespread

More children in Pennsylvania are calling high-poverty areas home, according to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Joan Benso, president and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, says the KIDS COUNT Data Snapshot shows that nationally, the number of children living in those communities rose from 9 percent to 11 percent during the past decade.

"But Pennsylvania actually did worse. We also grew to 11 percent of our children living in a community with concentrated poverty, but 10 years ago we were doing better than the rest of the nation."

The change marks a 27 percent increase. In three out of four of those homes, Benso says, at least one parent is employed. She says it points to a need for Pennsylvania to prioritize programs that help families having a hard time making ends meet, such as subsidized child care and free health insurance for children through Medicaid.

Benso says the high-poverty communities, where an estimated 64,000 Pennsylvania children live, lack the infrastructure they need to thrive. 

The full report is online at

Friday, February 17, 2012


Changes implemented will likely weaken the ability for Pennsylvanians to obtain justice

HARRISBURG, PA – Yesterday, the First Judicial District Court of Pennsylvania announced several upcoming changes to the legal processes of the historically fair and nationally respected Complex Litigation Center (CLC).  

The rule changes will limit consolidation of mass tort litigation at the courts' civil trial division. Thus it arbitrarily abolishes punitive damages and directs out of state victims to avoid Philadelphia courts.  Mass tort litigation at the CLC has been praised for years by Philadelphia and Pennsylvania's own citizens to allow for fairness in the courtroom when trying to hold large corporations accountable for negligence.

“This move by the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania is nothing more than caving in to powerful corporate-funded lobbying groups,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “Pennsylvanians lose and corporations win under this rule change.”

This decision may have a negative impact on current cases pending in the Philadelphia court system, including cases involving Bayer's birth control and acne drugs Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella. As of November 2011, there were 10,000 plus cases nation-wide pending in which thousands of women from across the country have claimed their health has been severely damaged by Bayer’s birth control drugs Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella. The alleged health impacts have included death, increased risk of blood clots and gallbladder surgery.  Since Bayer’s headquarters are located in Pennsylvania, many women have filed in Pennsylvania at Philadelphia’s CLC. The CLC has been nationally recognized to efficiently and fairly handle similar cases in the past.

At heart of the issue of this decision is that justice should be blind. The judicial system should not have to bend to the criticism of large, powerful lobbying groups like the American Tort Reform Association.

The American Tort Reform Association or ATRA, an extreme, conservative lobbying firm who has chipped away at consumers' rights for decades, hailed the decision as "very good news." ATRA’s mission is to limit an individual’s ability to hold corporations accountable, even when their products have caused serious physical, mental, or financial harm to consumers. Among ATRA's many supporters are tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the nation's largest lobbying firm, spending five times more money on lobbying efforts than its next closest competitor, Exxon Mobil.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mitt Romney Is Financially Invested In The Birth Control He Now Opposes


By Igor Volsky on Feb 8, 2012 at 8:30 am
Mitt Romney has attacked the Obama administration’s regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide reproductive health care services — including contraception — by arguing that the rule is undermining the religious liberties of Catholics and imposing “a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away.” As ThinkProgress has reported, Romney’s new-found sensitivities contradict his record as governor of Massachusetts — where he accepted a very similar contraception equity law — and his previous public commitments to increasing public funding for birth control. In 2005, Romney even asked the Massachusetts Department of Health to issue regulations requiring all hospitals to issue emergency contraception to rape victims, without providing an exception for Catholic hospitals.
Now, an examination of Romney’s financial investments reveals that the very same GOP frontrunner who is now petitioning the White House to extend the regulation’s conscience clause and exclude more women from the benefits of birth control is himself invested in and profiting from pharmaceutical companies that produce the frequently prescribed and extremely common medication:
Romney’s Goldman Sachs 2002 Exchange Place Fund, valued at over a million dollars in 2010, brought in nearly $600,000 in gains in 2010 and is invested in:
- Watson Pharmaceuticals: manufacturer of nine forms of emergency contraception (which Romney incorrectly identifies as “abortifacients“).
- Johnson & Johnson: launched the first U.S. prescription birth control product in 1931 and produces various forms of birth control.
- Merck: produces various forms of birth control
- Mylan: produces birth control medication and filed the first application for a generic birth control pill last year.
- Pfizer: a contraception producer that recently had to recall about a million packs of birth-control pills that weren’t packaged correctly.
Romney often disclaims any responsibility for or knowledge of his own investments by claiming that they are held in a private trust. But since filing his legally-required public financial disclosure reports and certifying that the information is “true, complete, and correct” to the best of his knowledge, the trust ceased to be a “blind trust” as he knew what was in it. Romney signed such disclosure forms last August and during his unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid in August 2007.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


HARRISBURG (Feb. 7, 2012) – Using a complicated fiscal shell game to “redesign school and district” basic education funding, the state budget proposal Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled today represents an unwise experiment that will cause chaos in the public schools and eliminate research-tested, classroom-proven programs, the president of Pennsylvania’s largest school employee union said today.

Michael Crossey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said that the governor’s budget proposal would do nothing to avert the growing financial crisis in Pennsylvania’s school districts.

“This proposal is an unwise experiment with the education of 1.8 million public school students,” Crossey said. “It leaves school officials and property taxpayers to figure out how to close a two-year, nearly $1 billion funding gap.”

Crossey said the governor’s budget proposal uses an accounting gimmick, combining line items for employee Social Security contributions and transportation costs in an attempt to create the appearance of an increase in the state’s main basic education subsidy to public schools. As a result, school districts could receive $94 million less in state funding that will actually go to support students in the classroom. (See chart below.)

in $ thousands
Student Achievement Education Block Grants
Basic Education Funding
Accountability Block Grants
Pupil Transportation
Nonpublic Pupil Transportation
School Employees Social Security
Total (Combined Lines)
Change from 2011-12

“Public schools are facing the second year of dramatic state funding cuts,” Crossey said. “Public school students need state support for programs that work, not accounting tricks.”

Gov. Corbett suggested that school districts “adjust” to meet their own needs. Unfortunately his budget once again leaves them with fewer resources, and the only “adjustments” are likely to be even larger classes, elimination of additional programs, and fewer opportunities for children, Crossey said.

Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal did not even mention, much less address, the plight facing districts in fiscal crisis like Chester Upland and York City – districts which may not be able to pay their bills in the current academic year.

Crossey pointed out that Gov. Corbett’s budget cuts have so far eliminated more than half a billion dollars in state support for programs that have helped to increase student achievement over the past decade. This does not include cuts to the basic education subsidy. (See chart below.) As a result, school districts now have no state help to cover growing charter school payments and will lose all accountability block grant funds, which pay for full-day kindergarten and class size reduction initiatives.

FY 2010-2011
FY 2011-2012
FY 2012-2013
(Gov. Proposed)
Charter School Reimbursement Program

Accountability Block Grant Program



Education Assistance (Tutoring) Program
Dual Enrollment Program
Basic Education Subsidy (for classroom instruction)

“For the second year in a row, the governor wants to reverse course on smart public school investments that work for our students,” Crossey said. “So far, his public education track record is all about cutting effective programs.”

According to Crossey, school districts across the state have already cut programs and staff. In the wake of this proposal, public schools will be forced to raise taxes or cut even more. A study released by the Pennsylvania School Administrators Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials in September indicated that:

·         70 percent of school districts increased class sizes.
·         44 percent of school districts reduced course offerings.
·         35 percent of school districts reduced or eliminated tutoring programs.
·         14,159 school district positions were eliminated or left vacant.

“Public school students need their elected state officials to be the responsible adults who will provide for their education, instead of hiding behind accounting tricks to paper over that responsibility,” Crossey said. “Public school students deserve a great education. It’s up to all of us – teachers, school administrators, citizens, and elected state officials – to assume some responsibility, and make sure they get a quality education.”

“Gov. Corbett’s massive budget cuts are hurting students across the Commonwealth,” Crossey said. “The students can’t afford another year of devastating cuts, especially when there are better options to balance the budget.”

Crossey is a special education teacher in the Keystone Oaks School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents more than 193,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.

Education Voters Statement on Proposed Education Budget

HARRISBURG,PA (February 7, 2012) – Today, the Governor  outlined his funding priorities in his 2012-2013 budget speech.  In this proposal, the Governor continues to reduce funding to public education.  For basic education, Corbett carries forward last year’s drastic $900 million cut and then  proposes combining four separate lines items into a single line.  Unfortunately the total funding of what these four items would have added up to if they were not combined means basic education will receive an additional cut, a cut local school districts cannot handle.  In addition, PASSHE schools will receive a 20% cut, state-related schools will receive a 30% cut and Pre-K Counts and Head Start will each get a 5% cut.

“There was one right thing to do for public education in this year’s budget and that was to restore the funds that were cut from our students and our communities last year and it didn’t happen.  They said we were forced to make cuts last year because of tough times – if that were true, we would be getting back on track with both the funding formula and funding levels this year.  The cuts to early education are disturbing and the cuts to higher education are shocking. This is ideological. I really have to question a Governor’s priorities if he isn’t willing to take care of children and provide an opportunity for them to learn, as well as think long term and help prepare our workforce for tomorrow, “ said Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania.

Last year, the Governor proposed and passed a historic cut to education funding of about $900 million dollars, which is carried forward in this year’s budget.  Class size went up in almost every community, and important programs that affect student achievement were cut, like Kindergarten, early education, arts, science, and technology.  Pennsylvania had been showing steady gains in academic achievement, and the districts that had been historically the most underfunded showed the greatest gains, demonstrating the impact of targeted increases and investments in programs that produce outcomes.  Gobreski said, “That is the funny thing about education, it’s really as simple as giving our students a quality opportunity – when we provide it, they learn.”

Legislators from both parties, as well as community, business and civic leaders, have been calling for the state budget to restore funding or, at minimum, stop cutting the support for education.  Many legislators are scrambling to position themselves as a friend of public education, given the trend. With state cuts being so drastic, many communities have been forced to cut programs, increase class sizes or raise local taxes, the worst way to fund education.  For the last couple of decades, communities have had to take care of what the state has sloughed off, which is a neat political trick for state elected officials, but communities are tired of having their local economies being played.

The Governor’s political spin has been that this is the fault of the temporary stimulus money, but in reality, the stimulus money was supposed to be used to help prevent harmful state cuts during the worst of the downturn– they paid our bills and: “After that money was gone, the Commonwealth was supposed to resume their role in properly funding the state basic education formula.”  Gobreski said, “The political tricks and fuzzy math abound: they reduce overall spending, combined several line items into one and called it an increase, knowing that the average person isn’t going to read the line by line version of the budget. It would be like doing this to your kids; last week your allowance was $10, plus I gave you $8 for lunch money and then $2 for your scout dues.  But from now on, instead, I am going to give you $15 in allowance (total) as your money for the week.  There, I increased your allowance.  Aren’t you happy?”

Education Voters is a non-partisan non-profit advocacy organization that works with parents and community leaders throughout the Commonwealth, engaging voters in advocating for strong public education policy.

PA House Passes Appalling Legislation to Shield Nursing Homes from Liability for Misconduct and Neglect

Seniors in Long Term Care Facilities Deserve Meaningful Accountability
for the Quality of their Care

As an organization that advocates for the quality of life of Pennsylvania Seniors, the PA Alliance for Retired Americans is deeply concerned with the provisions in House Bill 1907, which would shield nursing homes with negligent caregivers from any meaningful accountability.  This legislation would strip some of our most vulnerable seniors of their right to advocate for themselves in a meaningful way.  Overall, HB 1907 would be a large step backwards in the quality of care in our state’s nursing homes.

Pennsylvania Alliance President Jean Friday issued the following statement:

“House Bill 1907 would limit punitive damages against long-term care facilities and their employees to 200% of compensatory damages.  Imagine for a moment that a loved one in your family was neglected in such a facility. If a suit was brought to hold that facility accountable, how much really could be expected in the form of compensatory damages?  A few additional medical bills are likely to be the only compensatory damages awarded.  Capping punitive damages at 200% of those additional medical bills is woefully inadequate.  The amount of money would be so insignificant as to make such suits exercises in futility.  This shield from punitive damages leaves nursing home operators and caregivers with no legal or financial incentive to strive for excellent care.  Seniors in nursing homes, and their loved ones, deserve better piece of mind.  They deserve to know that the law will protect them from misconduct and punish the negligent!

“Supporters of House Bill 1907 will no doubt point out that the damage cap is lifted when ‘intentional’ misconduct is proven.  However, we find this to be of almost no solace.  Proving caregivers to be negligent is one thing.  How on earth would ‘intentional’ negligence be proven?  Would we need tape recordings of caregivers discussing their future misconduct?  How about memos from nursing home ownership detailing preferred misconduct methods?  The bill sets a standard that is absolutely ridiculous for abused seniors and their loved ones to exact real justice.

“Seniors are sorely disappointed that a small majority of State House members voted to pass this bill.  We hope that the State Senate has the good sense to protect seniors, instead of their abusers.  They should make sure that this legislation never reaches the Governor.”

The PA Alliance for Retired Americans has 300,000 members and 142 local affiliates in Pennsylvania.  For more information, contact Adam Swope in our Harrisburg office at aswope@retiredamericans.org202-341-7821 or visit

Sunday, February 5, 2012

All you need to know about the Affordable Care Act

Want to know about the Affordable Care Act?  Here's a simple explanation of what it has done and what it will do--in cartoon form.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012


HARRISBURG, PA – Late yesterday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court unanimously rejected Bayer’s request to halt legal proceedings over its birth control drug Yaz. “This is a huge victory for consumers from Pennsylvania and across the United States” said Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress. “Bayer has been reckless in distributing a drug that had potentially lethal medical impacts.  The Supreme Court’s ruling means that consumers will soon be able to get justice in our courts.”

This is yet another legal loss for Bayer on this issue as the First District Courts, the Intermediate Appellate Courts and now the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have all decided that these cases should be allowed to move forward.

As of November 2011, there were 1,795 cases pending in which thousands of women from across the country have claimed their health has been severely damaged by Bayer’s birth control drugs Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella. The alleged health impacts have included increased risk of blood clots and gallbladder surgery.  Since Bayer’s headquarters are located in Pennsylvania, the women have filed in Pennsylvania at Philadelphia’s Complex Litigation Center (CLC). The CLC has been nationally recognized to efficiently and fairly handle similar cases in the past.

Komen for the Cure de-funds Planned Parenthood

They did WHAT?

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation just announced that it will stop funding Planned Parenthood’s lifesaving breast cancer screenings. Why? Because of political pressure from congressional conservatives and anti-choice extremists.

Planned Parenthood is often the only provider of health care services for low-income and underserved women. Komen’s support for Planned Parenthood has provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and referrals for more than 6,400 mammograms in just the last 5 years. These cancer detection and prevention programs save lives, plain and simple.

Komen’s decision is an outrageous surrender to anti-choice extremists. The far-right has relentlessly targeted anyone supporting women’s health programs, and it's wrong.

It’s shameful that a foundation supposedly dedicated to saving lives would bow to the far-right on a life and death issue like breast cancer screenings.

At this critical moment, we must stand with Planned Parenthood against these unconscionable attacks on women’s health. Sign our petition to the Komen Foundation calling on them to reject anti-choice extremists and resume funding Planned Parenthood!

Click here to sign the petition
Thanks for all that you do,

The Team at Keystone Progress

Want to support our work? Become a monthly donor!

Tell Komen to restore funding to Planned Parenthood

Senior Advocate Calls on Governor Corbett to Reverse Policy

President of State Seniors’ Group Says New Food Stamp Rules will Hurt Families’ Efforts to Recover from Temporary Economic Problems

Jean Friday, President of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans, released the following statement regarding the imposition of new “asset tests” on food stamp benefits, which disqualify beneficiaries for having between $2000 and $4000 in savings, depending on age and other factors:

“The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans would like to formally express our concern over Governor Corbett’s newly-announced policy to impose an asset limit on eligibility for food assistance in Pennsylvania. This policy, we believe, will leave deserving families without assistance, straining our local charities and food banks, while potentially causing some families to fall into far worse economic situations (and far more expensive for PA taxpayers).  Furthermore, we believe that this policy runs contrary to the idea that state assistance should not be a permanent situation for Pennsylvania families. 

“Pennsylvanians find themselves on food stamps for a variety of reasons.  Some are temporarily out of work, but don’t qualify for unemployment.  Some lose their income for medical reasons.  Others are simply retired but do not earn enough in Social Security or pension to get by.  Many families that are new to food stamps during this recession might have savings tucked away for their children’s college.  They might also have funds stored up in case of an emergency.  Many seniors on food stamps have savings as well.  These asset limits would force them to live on the edge, and even prevent seniors from saving up for their own funeral expenses, placing the burden back on their families.  Should we really force these families to abandon their college, emergency or even end-of-life savings before we help them eat?

“If the answer to that question is “no”, we have to assume that many of these people will decide to keep their assets in the hope that their situation recovers, and lose their benefits.  Of course this sounds like an effective cost-saving measure, but it should be noted that these benefits are almost completely federally funded, meaning the savings to the state would be minimal! Furthermore, I worry about the charitable organizations, food banks and others who are already struggling to make a difference during this deep recession.  How will our charity network cope with this new influx of needy?  When these groups divide their resources, this policy could end up impacting the extremely needy via chain reaction.

“This issue gets at the very heart of the welfare debate in this state and nation.  Many citizens believe, including many of our members, that too many people are “stuck” in a permanent cycle of government dependence.  This dependence is expensive to taxpayers and strikes many as unfair.  However, the administration’s proposed policy will not reverse this trend.  Instead, it will force those in temporary need into a situation that is more longstanding!  Under the new policy, a family on food stamps cannot save up for a used car that can expand their opportunities for jobs.  Under the new policy, a family on food stamps cannot save up to move where job opportunities are better.  Under the new policy, a family on food stamps cannot save up to send themselves back to community college to learn a new skill.  Modest savings are a tool that poor families can use to lift themselves out of poverty.  The new policy will rob them of that tool.  It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to make it harder for people to qualify for benefits but also make it harder to get off of them.  Obviously there is a level of savings at which these arguments become moot.  But that level is probably 10 times what the administration has suggested. 

“Finally, this policy may end up costing the state more than it saves in the long run.  In order to qualify for food stamp benefits that they desperately need, some families and seniors will choose to spend down their small savings in order to qualify for the program.  Once they do that, these people who were not eligible for Medicaid before may find themselves eligible for that program now as well!  In light of the recent expansion of Medicaid, do we really want to encourage people to lower their assets to the point where they might qualify?  This new policy may turn out to be penny-wise and pound-foolish in more ways than one.

“Families and Seniors who need help feeding themselves and their children shouldn’t have to deepen their poverty to satisfy these new requirements.  We call on the Governor not to doom these families to permanent welfare status just to score some political points!  For the long-term good of Pennsylvania, this new policy must not be enacted.”

The Pennsylvania Alliance for Retired Americans has 300,000 members and 142 local affiliates across the Commonwealth.   For more information, please contact Adam Swope in our office at 202-341-7821; or visit