VISTA received $30 million in fiscal 1981. ACTION requested only $89 million for 1982 and $231,000 for 1983, just enough to close VISTA down. Congress, apparently not as concerned with VISTA’s “leftist” bent, specified funding floors to thwart the phase-out. Dixie Cassel, administrative assistant to VISTA director Horner, said recently that the administration wanted VISTA canceled, and that it was in a “phase-out mode.” The projects, she said, could be replaced with “more cost-effective programs.” No VISTA volunteer can make more than $7,800 a year from the government, and most VISTAs generate three or four times their pay in public and private resources. The reasons for the hostility toward VISTA aren’t clear, though Cassel said VISTAs under Sam Brown, an anti-war activist who h -,ded ACTION under President Cartel , “were training poor people to demonstrate against federal and local governments. Marge Tabankin over to Hanoi and criticized the United States. “They organized tenant unions and actually hauled some landlords to court,” Cassel said. “They were very supportive of legal services.” Pauken, apparently, had found his communists. Some ACTION workers suggest that Pauken’s antipathy toward VISTA is more personal. During his crusades against Mattox, the congressman was supported by an East Dallas neighborhood group, the flois D’Arc Patriots. A couple of VISTAs worked with the Patritits, though they didn’t participate in the group’s political activities. Pauken charged that the VISTAs were being used illegally, though he could never prove it. Pauken’s VISTA problem may run even deeper than that. A product of the free-enterprise-is-gospel school, it’s possible that voluntary work in poor neigh borhoods is something he simply can’t comprehend. At any rate, he was temporarily de Hunger in Laredo Laredo THERE ARE LONG LINES at employment and food stamp offices in a lot of towns these days Laredo isn’t that special. Even so, people here have been hit hard. From the biggest rancher to the merchant/middle class to the guy who just barely has something, everyone has devaluationinduced economic worries. So who’s going to be thinking now about those people who never had enough for an economic disaster to make any difference? Even before the devaluation, Laredo and the entire Rio Grande Valley were areas of widespread poverty. At least 40% of Laredo’s population were living at or below poverty level,* according to the 1980 census; 18% were living at below half the poverty line. Added to these are all the recently unemployed the victims of the devaluation. The unemployment rate in Laredo jumped from 15% in August to 23% in September, and continued to rise about 3% more in October. *59.287 annual income for a family of four. Yale graduate Miriam Davidson came to Laredo in August as an American Friends Service Committee volunteer. She had been working in Boston as an Atlantic Monthly intern and is now “Lifestyle” editor for the Laredo News. By Miriam Davidson “The thing I’m worried about,” said Laredo TEC office manager Raymond York, “is six months from now. Halfway through March, people will begin exhausting their benefits. What’s going to happen then? I just don’t see things returning to normal.” In Laredo, some people who were making it marginally before just aren’t anymore. These are the first to fall from a shrinking economy into the “Safety Net”; perhaps they don’t even qualify for unemployment benefits. What they might find is a world already familiar to other very poor, a world in which help is not forthcoming and at times is non-existent. What they might find is that the “Safety Net” is seen only from above. IT MUST BE difficult and confusing not to have enough money to feed your family. “They always”seem to wait till the last minute,” a Laredo food stamp worker said. “They come in and say, ‘I can get by, but my children can’t.’ Applications to the Department of stamps have increased 46.4% from August to October. The current wait for an interview after filing for assistance is 24 to 45 days. If a family can’t hold out that long, they must tell the caseworker that they want service expedited. If they qualify, an interview will be scheduled in one to three days. “About 40% of the applicants tell us up front that they want expedited service,” said Food Stamp and Aid for Dependent Children Program Director Diana Hughes. “The worker then has to see that tfiey have zero net income or that their only source of income has been terminated. That is the only way they would qualify for expedited service. “There are some that don’t ask for it, and then, when they get here for an interview, we find that their case should have been expedited,” she added. “But they do get the full amount of food stamps from whenever they applied. They just get it a little late.” Ms. Hughes expressed hope that the delays would be temporary, until her office could get more help. \(This is one place in Laredo that needs more Some families in Laredo won’t find the welfare office answering their prayers. Food stamp workers are trained to determine the status of anyone who might possible use the stamps-to purchase food. “We can tell,” said a caseworker, “if the person has just come from Mexico. They put the street first and then the number . . . that kind of thing. We ask questions about all the family members: `Who’s this uncle? Where does he come 8 DECEMBER 24, 1982
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