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Time Ticks as Some MO Families are Desperate for Federal Help

February 2, 2009

St. Louis, MO – With the biggest spending bill in American history on the line, the U.S. Senate will potentially vote today on the economic stimulus package.

Many Missourians affected by the slumping economy are getting desperate for food, health care and utility bill help, according to the state Department of Social Services, which is being flooded by food stamp and utility assistance requests, with its caseload continuing to rise. Bradley Harmon, a social worker for the department and president of Communication Workers of America Union Local 6355, says the problem illustrates why the U.S. Senate needs to act quickly on the economic stimulus package.

"These are working people who have been out of a job for so long that their unemployment benefits have run out; they are unsure how they're going to get to the end of the month because they've run out of food and they've run out of money, and they need help from the state."

Harmon says demand for help from Missourians is extremely high, while at the same time the state faces a budget deficit. He says it would be tough on the already-frayed system if the state has to cut caseworkers to balance the budget.

"These are strains on an already-strained safety net that frankly we can't handle, and we are seriously afraid that this safety net is going to break under the pressure that we are facing right now."

Harmon also touts the health care provision in the bill, which he says will help thousands of Missourians secure health insurance.

Opponents of the $819 billion dollar package claim the bill includes everything on the big-government wish list and nothing that would actually stimulate economic growth. But Missouri Pro-Vote, which is working to rally support for the package, says that if it is passed, benefit checks would keep coming to the unemployed, with an extra $25 a week, and a family of four on food stamps could find up to $79 more a month on their government-issued debit card.

More information is available at www.missouriprovote.org

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MO