Philly lawmakers continue fight to save general assistance, fight poverty in GOP-controlled legislature

PHILADELPHIA, June 26 – State Reps. Jason Dawkins, Malcolm Kenyatta, and Elizabeth Fiedler, all D-Phila. and leaders of the House Philadelphia Delegation, today said they will continue their fight to save the General Assistance program and help people living in poverty, despite the many roadblocks being put up by Republican leaders in this month’s state budget debate. 


Last week the House passed legislation (H.B. 33) that would eliminate Pennsylvania’s General Assistance program, which provides about $200 per month to people who are temporarily or permanently unable to work because of disability or other hardship and costs the state about $50 million per year. Every Democrat but one voted against the measure. It passed the Senate today also along party lines, 26-24.


“House Democrats put up nearly 30 amendments last week to save this lifeline for the more than 10,000 Pennsylvanians who rely on it to afford the most basic of necessities,” said Dawkins, chairman of the Philadelphia Delegation. “But our efforts to save it and help the most vulnerable among us continue to be met with indifference and derision by the Republican-led majority.”


Kenyatta, vice chairman of the delegation, praised his Senate colleagues for attempting to offer the same amendments to save the program as House Democrats and denounced GOP tactics in both chambers. He said Senate President pro tempore Joe Scarnati today ruled Senate Democratic amendments out of order, shut down debate and called for a vote, overriding Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s role in presiding over the Senate.


“I thank our Senate colleagues for putting up the fight for what is right,” Kenyatta said. “Trump-style politics sadly have seeped into the decorum of our legislature. Last week in the House, yesterday in the House, today in the House, today in the Senate – Republican leaders continue to tell those who disagree with them to sit down and shut up. Yesterday, Trump was praised in the House chamber while Democrats were forbidden from even saying the words minimum wage. Democrats who are fighting for the people are met with contempt and parliamentary tactics meant to silence us. This kind of obstruction must end. We must restore dignity in our legislature.”  


Fiedler, Philadelphia Delegation secretary, agreed.


“It is cruel and immoral to tear dollars out of the hands of people who are literally unable to buy food or pay for bus fare without general assistance,” Fiedler said. “We won’t give up fighting to save general assistance and programs that help people, and we refuse to be silenced.” 


The Democratic lawmakers said they are urging Gov. Tom Wolf to veto H.B. 33 when it gets to his desk for a signature.