Issue: The General Assistance–Unemployable (GA-U) program is meant to provide temporary aid while people recover from a short-term disability or illness. This assistance is critical, but not fully adequate in addressing the needs of the people who receive it. The Legislature is in the process of negotiating a 2007-09 budget right now, and the GA-U program is one of the important issues being discussed.
Background: For people working hard just to make ends meet, a serious illness or a temporary disability is more than just a health concern — it can lead to job loss and homelessness. Short-term relief is sometimes all that is needed to fend off the crisis and help someone get back on their feet.
Washington State has a program that’s meant to provide that short-term relief. The General Assistance–Unemployable program offers financial support for people who are suffering a short-term disability and are unable to work. Many GA-U recipients are low-income or homeless individuals who are temporarily incapacitated; often they live in transitional housing, and GA-U allows them to pay the sliding scale rent required to stay off the streets.
In addition to a cash grant of $339 per month, people receiving GA-U are provided health care benefits. But while nearly half of the individuals who receive GA-U have mental health care needs, mental health is not covered beyond prescription management. Primary care physicians are not equipped to address the full range of problems confronting clients with mental health care needs, which affect every aspect of a person’s life. Addressing the mental health needs of GA-U clients would improve their overall health and decrease costs to the state.
The Washington House of Representatives released a budget that includes $3.4 million for a pilot program in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties adding mental health care to the GA-U program. But neither the Senate budget, which came out last week, nor the Governor’s version of the budget includes that funding. We have to ensure that this urgently needed addition makes it through the negotiations in the coming weeks and is included in the final budget.
The General Assistance–Unemployable program is meant to be a temporary solution to a temporary problem in someone’s life. But as long as the solution is inadequate, the problem won’t be going anywhere.
Action: Contact your state legislators this week and ask them to include the $3.4 million designated for mental health care in the final budget. Call the legislative hotline at 1(800)562-6000 or take action online at www.socialjusticenow.org.
For copy of actual issue, go to https://www.realchangenews.org/2007/04/04/apr-4-2007-entire-issue