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letters | don’t weaken the safety net again

Old stereotypes fuel a new crackdown on welfare recipients

DO WE really need another clampdown on women and children who receive welfare (“Senate drafts welfare overhaul,” Metro, June 18)?

In the mid-1990s, as director of governmental affairs of the National Association of Social Workers’ Massachusetts chapter, I watched the state Senate debate a welfare proposal at the same time the Globe and the Herald ran a series of articles on Claribel Rivera Ventura and her extended family, who used many public benefits. Each day the debate became harsher, and only three state senators voted against the welfare plan, despite knowing that the Venturas were not a typical welfare family.

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Could it be that the myths and stereotypes about people who use public benefits are driving this latest proposal? That people who use benefits are lazy and dishonest? Do those myths come from our puritanical heritage that says people who are poor are responsible for their plight and less worthy than those who can adequately support their families?

The bill now before the Senate wrongly assumes mothers are out to cheat the welfare system and don’t care about their kids’ education. Unless it’s amended, it would even kick mothers out of public and subsidized housing if their children don’t attend school regularly. Hard to imagine how becoming homeless would contribute to eliminating truancy, or give mothers extra powers to encourage a child’s school attendance.

Our laws say that people are innocent until proven guilty. The latest welfare proposal seems to reverse those words to “guilty until proven innocent” and puts the onus on recipients to prove they are worthy.

Miriam Stein


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