The ongoing Pennsylvania budget impasse has obviously been a huge topic lately. Saturday afternoon I logged into my control panel and found the below comment waiting for approval. I contacted the author of the comment and obtained permission to publish it as a guest post.
It seems as if the media coverage of the impasse is painting a rosy picture of zero-interest loans and creditors willing to show lenience. The reality is that plenty of people like myself with good credit (around 700 FICO across two of the three bureaus) are being turned down for those loans. And utility companies and lenders just don’t care.
What follows below is the story of one state employee who did her best to take control of her situation, but was shot down at every turn. It is not my story, and the only editing done was to remove personally-identifying information and to clearly mark some sections. My comments will be [bracketed in bold & italics].
We are not a member of the credit union and would be required to change our accounts over to them if we would apply for the pay day loans that Rendell is bragging about Unfortunately, we are sure that we will not pass a credit check due to an illness that prevented me from working for more than a year. Rendell has made it sound as though the employee’s of the state are guaranteed a loan just because he said so and because he has made all of these great arrangements.The banking industry has been in a bad position for some time so you know they are not just going to give money to anyone. But he never mentions people will have to pass the credit checks. He never mentions you will have to move your accounts to their insitution and become a member of the credit union.
We have contacted been contacting our creditors as we were told to do. He again makes it sound like everyone is going to work with you but it’s not true.
When I called the water company,they told me people lose their jobs every day and are required to pay their bills and they expect payment as usual. I explained that he has a job, is required to show up for work but doesnt get a paycheck, no unemployment checks and no welfare checks. She told me I would be accessed a 10% penalty per mo and after 60 days my water service will be terminated.
The gas company said there is nothing they can do until we receive a termination notice because they have nothing in place for the PA State employee’s. I asked about energy assistance, she said we did not qualify because we make too much money. When I explained again there is no paycheck, she said it is based on your annual salary.
The life insurance I wont mess with considering my husband works in a Maximum security prison! Car Insurance – no payment – no coverage.
The mortgage company is demanding that I send them a copy of the letter we received along with a detailed list of our income and expenses to determine what we should be able to pay them.
The governor makes it all sound like nobody is really effected by this.
I contacted Bill Deweese’s office about the 1.7 million that is being spent on a museum in Philly? Why isn’t this project and others like it not being eliminated. Here is the correspondence: The first thing you see is my reply to their email. His office is on the bottom.
[The following paragraphs are her response to Rep DeWeese’s response.]
Thank you for your response but it doesn’t really answer any of my questions. Why was there no vote on stop gap funding? This would have allowed you to continue to work on a budget without interrupting the pay of the employee’s of this state. It didn’t have to come to this. You have nearly 80,000 families affected by this! Had this happened to the welfare recipients or inmates, there would have been an outcry! Had this been a natural disaster, there would have been emergency funding! But no, it’s just the state employee’s. They don’t need their paychecks!
Also, Why would you put 1.7 million into a museum and risk the lives of law enforcement by taking away million? This is a HUGE waste of tax dollars. What about the stamps and envelopes provided to the inmates every month that are paid for by the tax payer? Why not take all of that away and let the family foot the bill? They are incarcerated for a reason! I am sure there are many more perks provided by the state tax payers that can be cut!
Then there are the extra perks of the welfare recipients! Why are they permitted to get vouchers for car repairs and new vehicles? Why are they not required to work this into their budget? Most of these people, especially in the Greene county area are generational welfare! They have never worked a day in their lives! They are not down on their luck. They want a free ride! Lets not mention the free cell phones, the weather programs, the rent rebates and many other benefits they receive!? They don’t leave their house and still receive these benefits and more. Yet my husband has worked all of these years in life threatening jobs and he is required to show up for work and receive NO pay check! What is wrong with this picture!?
Then there is the penalties and interest that I am now facing with my creditors. Is the state going to reimburse me for these expenses that I would not have incurred had they resolved the budget on time? How about the mental anguish and stress that this is bringing on? Am I going to be compensated for this? And I have the water company telling me they will not work with me on the bill even though I have a letter stating that my husband is affected by this. They told me people lose their jobs every day and are required to pay their bills and it was no different for us. I explained he is not unemployed & doesn’t receive unemployment nor welfare but that he is required to show up for work, business as usual but is not going to get a paycheck and that is could be a few months until he does. She told me if I was 2 months late, not only will I be assessed 10% per month but that my service will be terminated! How do you propose I take care of this? I haven’t even gotten through all of the people I pay monthly!
I also have children to feed & clothe! Gasoline for my husband to drive 45 min to work, my car insurance and life insurance can’t help us either. No payment, no coverage! I can’t not have life insurance on my husband when he works with the worst inmates in the state.
Please respond for I truly am in need of answers!
[The following paragraphs are the response from Rep DeWeese.]
From: Norton, Helen [mailto:HNorton@pahouse.net]
Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 5:20 PM
To: my email address
Subject: budget impasse
Dear Mrs. *****:
Representative DeWeese asked that I thank you for contacting him about the budget. In an effort to get over the impasse House Democrats have introduced a new budget bill, HB 1416, (and Representative Civera has amended it with language essentially worse than SB 850.) It may interest you to know that Mr. Civera’s amendment cuts the DOC General Governmnet Operations appropriation by $1.8 Million. What that will translate into is staffing cuts which well may make Correctins institutions more dangerous places than ever to work in.
Representative DeWeese asked that I send you the following letter:
Thank you for contacting me about the state budget.
It’s important for you to understand that I fully support appropriate funding for state programs such as education, job creation, senior citizens and veterans. Unfortunately, ideology has taken root in the state Senate and we remain locked in budget negotiations at this time.
The latest budget action came Monday when my Democratic colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee moved forward with a budget (H.B. 1416) that maintains those vital programs and, more importantly, contains no tax increase – the sticking point with Republicans.
The plan also holds state government accountable by tightening our own belt, and funding programs for which we are responsible rather than passing the buck to counties and school boards.
I promise you that I will fight for what’s best for Pennsylvania’s future, not just what’s the easiest to get through today.
Your fervent ally,
room 626, mcb
[This ends Rep DeWeese’s response.]
This is the reply my sister received when she emailed him about the Barnes Museum in Philly.
Der Mr. and Mrs. ****** – Representative DeWeese asked that I thank you for contacting him about expenditures in the budget, and for your careful perusal of those appropriations. He appreciates your alerting him to the Barnes Collection transportation and will attempt to elarn more about it.
room 626, mcb
Learn more about it? Unbelievable!
Oh and I have yet to get any answers on the questions that I asked him.
I believe if the media starts to hear what we are really going through and reports it maybe something will be done. As of right now people believe we are being taken care of because of what he is telling the media and none of it is true! PLEASE tell our story!
[This is the end of her contribution.]
And there you have it. The story of one state employee who has chosen to swim instead of sink. The responses she received from her creditors, while disturbing, are to be expected. By the way, you won’t be able to sue the state for damages from increased interest rates resulting from the irreparable damage to your credit report.
If you happen to work for Met-Ed, PPL, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, UGI, or any of the other utility or service companies serving Pennsylvania residents, consider cutting us a break. Especially if you provide service in the Central PA area — where most state employees are located — consider pulling whatever strings you can to be compassionate to your customers during these extraordinary times. It makes good business sense to give your customers a temporary deferment on payments, especially if we’re talking about critical, not-optional services such as electricity and mortgage payments. While you’re certainly under no obligation to do so, the alternative is seeing tens of thousands of paying customers written off for nonpayment.
If anyone else would like to share their story, please do so in the comments below. I’m especially interested in hearing about any companies that have been helpful and understanding in these ridiculous, unprecedented times.
Remember: We’re not asking for a handout or a free ride. All we want is our paycheck.