Single moms can’t afford Shumlin cuts, says Vermont Commission on Women

In a somewhat unusual public foray into legislative politics, the Vermont Commission on Women this afternoon issued a statement opposing Gov. Peter Shumlin’s plan for welfare reform.

The 16-member commission, which bills itself as a “non-partisan state agency dedicated to legislative, economic, social, and political fairness,” said it weighed the matter carefully before determining the plan would have a disproportionate impact on single mothers.

Shumlin has proposed a five-year cap on welfare benefits, a cost-cutting measure he says will encourage impoverished Vermonters to get jobs. The move would shave about $6 million annually in human services costs, and kick about 1,200 families off the welfare rolls beginning in October.

In a release, the Vermont Commission on Women said the “overwhelming majority of Vermont households receiving this cash assistance are women, and limits to this program will disproportionately affect female-headed families with children.”

A number of facts lead the VCW to this conclusion,” the release said. “The lives of these families are complex. They often include challenges, such as lack of transportation, education and child care; mental health concerns; care of a child with a disability; or trauma from having survived domestic violence.”

In a written statement, the commission’s executive director, Cary Brown, said Shumlin’s proposal targets those that can least afford it.

These are Vermont’s most fragile and vulnerable families,” Brown said. “The Commission believes that budgetary concerns should not be balanced on the backs of those least likely to be able to function without government assistance.”