Tag Archives: assistance

Young lawyers launch legal clinic to help Milwaukee’s homeless youth

The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Young Lawyers Division recently announced an initiative providing legal aid to Milwaukee’s homeless youth, offering a series of free legal clinics throughout February.

“There is a significant homeless youth population in Milwaukee, many of whom are facing legal issues, and we, as young lawyers are uniquely positioned to make a connection and do our small part to make a difference in our community,” said Elise Libbey, a Milwaukee attorney and chair of the State Bar’s Project Street Youth program. “It is important that we take steps to help where we are able.”

The legal clinics are part of a larger national program, Project Street Youth, which was created by the American Bar Association’s YLD to educate and raise awareness of the issues facing homeless youth, as well as to direct lawyers to lobby for policy changes and new legislation.

According to the ABA, about 40 percent of the more than 1.7 million homeless young people in the United States are under the age of 18.

“This is a unique opportunity for lawyers to provide an underserved population with much needed services that may not be readily available to them,” Libbey said.

YLD organizers anticipate the clinics will address a host of legal issues, including credit and false accusations of fraud, the ability to find housing, expungements of criminal records, public assistance.

The legal clinics are scheduled for Feb. 3, Feb. 10, Feb. 17 and Feb. 24 5:30-8 p.m. at Pathfinders in Milwaukee.

“We are fortunate to partner with Pathfinders for our legal clinics,” Libbey said. “It’s a great organization doing great work for Milwaukee’s at-risk youth population.”

As of today, more than 30 volunteer attorneys have committed to collectively provide more than 120 hours of free legal advice over the course of the four clinics.

If the Milwaukee clinics are successful, the YLD board will consider expanding the program to other areas of the state, according to a news release.

Social Security must be preserved

Social Security, one of the most successful government programs in U.S. history, marked its 80th anniversary this year. As it enters its ninth decade of providing basic income security for older Americans, GOP presidential candidates are working to undermine faith in it.

They decry Social Security as an “entitlement” and warn of its insolvency. Using their favorite tactic of divide and conquer, they claim the money won’t be there for young people. They say Americans can get better returns from investing the same small sliver of their paychecks in private markets. So why should the government take the money?

Please don’t drink their Kool-Aid. 

Social Security is not an entitlement. Each of us pays for it through a deduction of 6.2 percent from every paycheck. Our employers match that 6.2 percent and send the total amount to the federal government monthly.

When we draw from Social Security in retirement, we receive money we have invested in the system our entire lives. The earliest age to claim Social Security is 62. The monthly check is larger if a person waits until full retirement age, which is 66 or 67, depending on your year of birth.

Social Security is not insolvent, and young people need only look at how the program benefits their grandparents to see what a valuable investment it is. All of my older relatives and friends rely on Social Security as an important part of their retirement income. They are not moochers. They have earned their benefits.

Social Security was championed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and adopted by bipartisan Congressional majorities in 1935. Private charity had never fully met the needs of the poor and elderly poverty, a scourge that predated the Great Depression, grew more severe during the economic crisis.

The Social Security Act included old age insurance (the focus of this column), unemployment compensation, welfare benefits for the poor and survivor benefits for widows and orphans. Welfare — Aid to Families with Dependent Children — was abolished under Bill Clinton in 1996.

Many studies confirm that in the second half of the 20th century, Social Security helped significantly to reduce poverty among the elderly. Without Social Security today, 48 percent of Wisconsin seniors would descend below the poverty line.

Concerns about the solvency of Social Security have been addressed over the years in several ways: raising the retirement age; increasing the percentage of contributions; and raising the amount of income subject to Social Security taxes.

Currently, individuals do not have to pay Social Security taxes on income above $118,500. Lifting the payroll cap to $250,000, which Bernie Sanders proposes, would secure Social Security for at least the next three generations.

Of course, the GOP opposes any new taxes — even for a successful program that keeps millions from destitution. The financial windfall for investment firms is the real motive behind those who want to privatize Social Security. 

Why should Americans hand over our one small reserve of secure savings to the banks and Wall Street, whose practices have become more secretive and whose history is full of reckless speculation? Have we forgotten the near crash that took place only seven years ago? They not only stole our money, we had to bail them out!

Social Security guarantees all of us a minimum retirement income when we grow old. It must be preserved.

Food insecurity strikes 29 percent of LGBT families

About 2.4 million or 29 percent of LGBT adults experienced a time in the past year when they did not have enough money to feed themselves or their family, according to a new Williams Institute study.

The report, authored by demographer Gary J. Gates and released on Feb. 5, said LGBT people experience disproportionate levels of food insecurity and higher participation rates in the SNAP program, especially those raising children.

Gates said data suggest that same-sex couples raising children are about twice as likely to receive food stamps as different-sex couples with children.

“These data provide the first opportunity to understand the extent to which LGBT people in the U.S. experience some aspects of food insecurity and use food stamps,” said Gates in a news release. “The farm bill Congress passed yesterday cut food stamps, and we now know that LGBT communities will be disproportionately affected by that legislation.”

According to the US Department of Agriculture, about 49 million Americans — nearly 16 percent — were food insecure in 2012. Food insecurity is generally defined as having limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — SNAP — is the largest federal program designed to alleviate food insecurity. More than 47 million Americans — nearly one in five adults — participate in SNAP, which provides food purchase assistance to low and no-income individuals.

Gates said bisexuals along with LGBT women and people of color are particularly vulnerable to high rates of food insecurity and SNAP participation. One in four bisexuals — 25 percent — receive food stamps; 34 percent of LGBT women were food insecure in the last year; and LGBT African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians experienced food insecurity in the last year at rates of 37 percent, 55 percent, and 78 percent respectively.

Other findings in his paper:

• More than one 1 in 5 LGB adults aged 18-44 (21 percent), approximately 1.1 million, participated in the SNAP program through receipt of food stamps in the past year.  

• More than 1 in 8 same-sex couples (13 percent), approximately 84,000 couples, participated in SNAP in the last year.

• More than 4 in 10 LGB adults age 18-44 raising children (43 percent), approximately 650,000, participated in SNAP.

• More than 1 in 4 same-sex couples raising biological, adopted, or step children under age 18 (26 percent), approximately 27,000 couples, participated in SNAP.

Rates of food insecurity are higher for LGBT adults when compared to heterosexual adults across several national surveys, and across gender, age, racial/ethnic, and education level groups.  After taking these factors into account:

• LGBT adults are 1.7 times more likely than non-LGBT adults to not have had enough money to feed themselves or their family in the past year.

• LGB adults aged 18-44 are 1.3 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to receive food stamps.

• Same-sex couples are 1.7 times more likely than different-sex couples to receive food stamps.

• LGB adults aged 18-44 raising children are 1.8 times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to receive food stamps.

• Same-sex couples raising biological, adopted, or step children under age 18 are 2.1 times more likely than comparable different-sex couples to receive food stamps.