Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota had a unique opportunity this week. We were able to advocate for low-income families at the national level, in front of Congress. Boyd Brown, Area Director for Employment & Training, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources. He was there to discuss the impact that welfare reform has on the people who receive assistance. As a provider of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) services since 1997, Goodwill-Easter Seals is able to draw on many personal stories of lives impacted by the programs and policies set in place by Washington.
Following an introduction by Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen, Boyd detailed his key points – the need for program flexibility and additional opportunities for training and education. He emphasized these needs by using the story of a participant named Elizabeth. When Elizabeth came to Goodwill-Easter Seals, she slept most nights in her car with her daughter. She had dropped out of school in the 10th grade and had not stepped foot in a classroom since – education was a luxury she could not afford. Despite her efforts, she’d been unable to find employment.
Elizabeth’s Goodwill-Easter Seals counselor convinced her to add GED preparation to her efforts – knowing she’d need it to secure long-term employment. While attending GED classes, Elizabeth also continued to struggle with housing, “couch hopping” from one friend’s home to another. Just over a year later, she completed her GED. Three days later she found a job. The following week Elizabeth enrolled in college to pursue an Associate’s Degree. She moved into an apartment, her work hours increased and she no longer needs government assistance. She’ll graduate next year and plans to complete her BA to become a social worker.
As Congress considers welfare reform, we offer the following recommendations:
For nearly 100 years Goodwill-Easter Seals has been helping people like Elizabeth overcome obstacles and achieve employment goals. We are proud of our advocacy on behalf of low-income families and we will continue working to influence policies at the federal, state and local levels so that all Minnesota families can thrive.