Assistance for disabled poor to be cut

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Budget cuts will hurt about 500 poor and disabled people starting this Saturday. Advocates for the poor say their last minute appeals to the governor's office are being ignored.

The program is called the General Assistance program. It offers money to people who are poor, disabled and waiting to qualify for public assistance.

Such a program can be a lifeline for people in a bad situation. People typically get about $260 a month to help with housing, food and transportation.

The small amount and huge difference the program means to so many people is a big reason a group of advocates for the poor is so outraged. Starting Saturday, 500 people of the 1,350 enrolled in the program will be forced out.

The reason this is happening is a $3-million budget cut, approved by the Legislature this year.

The group is appealing to the governor and governor-to-be for emergency funding, but it hasn't worked.

Linda Hilton, with the Coalition of Religious Communities, said "We issued a letter on July 16, asking for an emergency meeting with the governor or the governor-to-be. We've been ignored as recently as yesterday."

This kind of cut of assistance programs might just be the tip of the iceberg. The Legislature is already facing major budget challenges, and more cuts to everything will probably be coming next year.

Laine Gardinier, with the Crossroads Urban Center, said, "It's a really small amount of money as far as the overall state budget, but the impact it's going to have is huge. We're going to see a lot more people needing help, getting help from agencies, from churches."

Whether the governor can restore General Assistance remains an unanswered question.

The governor and lt. governor's office did not return a phone call Tuesday.

So as of now, 500 people will lose their general assistance benefit as of Saturday.


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Richard Piatt


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