Letter to the editor

Support the Half in Ten bill to help Los Angeles’ poor. 

As a social worker at the Good Shepherd Center serving the homeless women and children of Los Angeles, I have seen dozens of people who are newly homeless at age 50.

Many people have paid their own way their whole lives, only to be laid off a decade away from retirement.

Their 401(k) retirement accounts are now nearly worthless because of the economic situation, and because their unemployment benefits didn’t last long enough to help them weather the recession, they have had to spend their retirement money regardless of the heavy penalties on that money for early withdrawal.

Current figures of unemployment in the country are starting to drop, which may indicate to some people in the country that the fight is over.

But for the people of Los Angeles, this is going to be a long, hard slog. We’ve been looking at high unemployment rates  for years.

The formula for computing poverty was developed in the 1960s, and it is now out of date. Rent, gas and health insurance are our biggest expenses and the current poverty line is based solely on the cost of food.

This calculation error translates to a population that is underserved by the safety net meant to help them get through economic downturns and personal hardship.

The Half in Ten bill hopes to fix that and many other issues by extending broad reforms to the service workforce that makes up such a huge percentage of the working poor in America. These are the people with multiple jobs paying high rates for child care, insurance and rent in an economy that is just starting to produce tangible results for the people who need it the most.

The bill mandates affordable child care, flexible schedules for families with children, extending federal aid to our beleaguered state college system and providing more public sector jobs.

It also provides more money for public works projects in the short term to help the economy transition during this fragile time, while providing funding toward recalibrating the poverty measure.

Many representatives in Congress are already cosponsoring this bill.

Nevertheless, our senators need to be reminded of the pressing nature of the economic problems here in Los Angeles.

Joel Chapen

Graduate student, social work