95 Organizations Across Kentucky Agree: We Need a Safety Net That Works for Us, Not Against Us

By admin
February 14, 2020

Many Kentuckians are simply a lost job, new baby, accident or illness away from qualifying for Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), and Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (K-TAP) – “safety net” programs that exist to catch us when we fall and sustain us while we get back on our feet. Kentuckians who are underpaid, working multiple part-time jobs, struggling with a disability or other barriers to economic security are able to meet basic needs with the support from these programs. And Kentucky’s children who benefit from the safety net are better off later in life because of them.

In an open letter signed by more than 60 organizations last December, many of us laid out our shared principles for what a strong and effective safety net should look like, calling on our public leaders to ensure access to vital assistance programs without barriers, honor the inherent dignity of people who participate, and prioritize equitable outcomes for Kentuckians of color, women and those living in distressed local economies.

Recently, House Leadership filed HB 1, a proposal that fundamentally changes public assistance programs in ways that would take away support from Kentuckians when we need it most. We, the undersigned, urge legislators to recognize the importance of health, food, cash, child care and other forms of assistance in the lives of constituents throughout the commonwealth, reject measures that will harm Kentuckians and our communities by taking assistance away, and choose reforms that make us stronger.

The theory that punitive measures are needed to get people off public assistance and into work is not backed by data. Federal and state experiments with erecting barriers to participation haven’t improved already high rates of employment or reduced already low rates of fraud, but have deepened poverty. Such measures reinforce stigmatizing stereotypes and fail to reflect reality for Kentuckians who are doing their best to make ends meet. Decades of data show that by creating numerous barriers to health, food, and other forms of assistance, HB 1 will leave people worse off. For some of us, it would create an absolute lifetime ban on all forms of support.

There are effective, evidence-based ways to assist people who are working to improve their lives – measures that aren’t punitive but empowering. These include:

  • Building economic stability by allowing people to maintain eligibility as income gradually grows.
  • Expanding voluntary training and work supports.
  • Making childcare more accessible and affordable.
  • Providing more healthy and local produce options for SNAP participants.
  • Supporting healthy re-entry after incarceration for Kentuckians struggling with substance-use disorder by making sure they can quickly get help with food and medical assistance.
  • Lowering health care premiums for all marketplace enrollees to make it easier for those who earn too much for Medicaid to still afford coverage.

These reforms invest in Kentuckians, rather than making it harder for people to be healthy and productive. We, the undersigned, urge our legislators to listen to the voices of Kentuckians who are better off because of food, health, child care and other forms of assistance, consider the unequivocal evidence backing a supportive rather than punitive approach to our safety net, and work with stakeholders to design a bill that improves Kentuckians’ well-being – the foundation of our state’s shared prosperity.

Signed:

Aaron Jonan Memorial Clinic

ACLU of Kentucky

Adoption Assistance

Advocacy Action Network

All Quakers in Kentucky (Religious Society of Friends)

Alliance for Pediatric Behavioral and Mental Health of Kentucky

American Cancer Society – Cancer Action Network

Americana World Community Center

Asthma and Allergy Center

Big Brothers Sisters of Kentuckiana

Black Lives Matter Louisville

Bridgehaven, Inc.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Owensboro

Catholic Conference of Kentucky

Change Today, Change Tomorrow

Coalition for the Homeless

Commonwealth Therapy Group

Community Farm Alliance

Dare to Care Food Bank, Inc.

Deer Park Family Doctors

East End Huddle

Fairness Campaign

Fairview Community Health Center

Family Circle, Inc.

Family Health Centers, Inc.

Feeding Kentucky

Forward Kentucky

Four Rivers Indivisible

Freestore Foodbank

Glean Kentucky

God’s Pantry Food Bank

Healthy Reentry Coalition

Homeless and Housing Coalition of Kentucky

HR Transylvania Presbytery

Jefferson County Teachers’ Association

Kentucky Association of Regional Programs

Kentuckians For the Commonwealth

Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

Kentucky Association for Psychology in the Schools

Kentucky Association for School Social Work

Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

Kentucky Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Kentucky Council of Churches

Kentucky Education Association

Kentucky Equal Justice Center

Kentucky Nurses Action Coalition

Kentucky Nurses Association

Kentucky Primary Care Association

Kentucky Psychiatric Medical Association

Kentucky Psychological Association

Kentucky Society for Clinical Social Work

Kentucky State AFL-CIO

Kentucky Voices for Health

Lexington Survivors of Suicide

Maines Electric

Matthew 25 AIDS Services

McNary Group

Mental Health America of Kentucky

Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio Inc.

Monticello Medical Associates

Mountain Comprehensive Care Center 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Kentucky

National Alliance on Mental Illness – Lexington

National Alliance on Mental Illness – Louisville

National Association of Social Workers – Kentucky Chapter

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Nelson County Democratic Woman’s Club

New Roots, Inc.

Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission

Northern Kentucky Justice and Peace Committee

Pathways, Inc.

Pediatric Associates of Hazard

Pediatric Associates of Pikeville

Pediatric Mental Health & Behavioral Health Alliance

Pennyroyal Center

People Advocating Recovery

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kentucky

Play Cousins Collective

Quaker Committee on Kentucky Legislation

Red River Health Care

Reparations Roundtable

RiverValley Behavioral Health

Salyersville Medical Center

Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center

The Arc of Kentucky

The Bounce Coalition

The Kentucky Council of Churches

The Ridge Behavioral Health Hospital

The Women’s Network

Together Frankfort

Union Church

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227

Wellspring, Inc.

Zero to Three

This letter was published in the Richmond Register on February 19, 2020.