George A. Carrico, a 57-year-old Adams Morgan resident, says he had a debilitating heart attack last May. His doctors have told him that in addition to his heart condition he suffers from bronchitis and emphysema.
He applied for federal disability benefits, but he has been told to gather more medical evidence. In the meantime, he has been receiving $180.53 a month from District of Columbia's general public assistance program.
Along with other aid recipients and welfare rights advocates, Carrico testified before a City Council committee yesterday in opposition to Mayor Marion Barry's plan to impose a six-month limit on public assistance payments.
William Whitehurst, acting director of the city's Department of Human Services, estimated that, if Barry's cut-off plan goes into effect, 4,200 persons would immediately be dropped from the public assistance rolls.
Whitehurst said that about 6,700 persons receive benefits from the program.
The plan is part of Barry's recently announced package of proposals to avoid a projected city budget deficit estimated as much as $174.4 million.
Laura Macklin of the Neighborhood Legal Services Program -- which aids many low-income residents in obtaining government benefits -- told the Council's Committee on Human Services that the cutoff would have a serious impact on aid recipients.
"That $180 a month pays their rent, whatever transportation they can afford, and supplements their food stamps," Macklin said. "Without the support, the unfortunate truth is that some of them simply won't survive."
The general public assistance program was originally conceived as temporary support for disabled workers. Recipients must be recertified every six months before they may continue to receive payments, which are $180.53 a month for a single adult.
The six-month cutoff is key to Barry's budget-balancing proposals. In his $61.8 million supplemental budget request to Congress, the mayor has figured in only enough funds -- around $4 million -- to run the program at the reduced level through the rest of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, according to city budget director Gladys W. Mack.
Macklin said, however, that in practice many persons stay on the program longer than six months largely because of delays in the application process for permanent disability benefits under the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
"I applied for SSI last July 3, but they turned me down," said Carrico, who said he currently has to take 10 different types of medicine each day. Carrico said he was told that, despite statements of his medical condition submitted by four doctors, he had to gather more evidence. He said no final determination on his application has been made.
Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) chairperson of the human services committee, called Carrico's account "a very sad story of government bureaucracy," but gave no indication of how she and the rest of the council will vote on the cutoff plan.
The City Council, however, would have to approve the cutoff before it could take effect. The Council also has to approve Barry's supplemental request to Congress, and could increase the request to include enough funds to keep the program going at current levels.
In a statement opening the hearing yesterday, Shackleton said that several of Barry's other proposals to cut costs in the Department of Human Services are "not attractive options." These include reduction in homemaker services for the elderly, termination of the Medical Charities Program, and a cut in the city's day-care program this summer.
Despite their unattractiveness, however, Shackleton said that "these, or other options, must be approved" in order to eliminate the projected deficit.