The U.S. House Budget Committee under the Direction of Congressman John Spratt of South Carolina is holding a hearing in Washington today on the impact of government programs on those affected by the recession.
Another South Carolinian is among the four people speaking at that meeting. Attorney Sue Berkowitz directs the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center. She is speaking on the subject of unemployment benefits and the difference that they have made in peoples’ lives.
Berkowitz says the payments have made a big difference for many South Carolina families, helping them to get by in desperate times when they were living paycheck to paycheck.
For more than 20 years the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center has helped low income people, by working through the courts, legislature, administrative agencies and local communities, and also providing education, training and counseling to the disadvantaged.
The congressional meeting is titled, “The Social Safety Net: Impact of the Recession and the Recovery Act.”
Berkowitz says her mind is full of examples of the difference the unemployment funds have made. She sites the story of a 60-year-old Charleston woman laid off by the Medical University.
“She wasn’t old enough to think about receiving Social Security retirement, but was at an age making it very difficult for her to find work,” said Berkowitz. “The benefits have been the only lifeline she has had. And it’s not because she hasn’t tried to find work because she wants to work. But it’s very difficult for those laid off, due to the recession.”
Berkowitz says the federal government has also added $25 a week assistance to unemployment checks, and also helps individuals keep up their health insurance by paying 65 percent of COBRA program payments. But Berkowitz says those two benefits are about to expire in a matter of weeks at the end of this year. She is lobbying to have them extended into 2010.
Berkowitz is also discussing the food stamps program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families(or TANF). In South Carolina alone, there are 11,000 more people receiving TANF benefits than last year, and 150,000 more people receiving food stamps.