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TESTIMONY: Maimuna Des Vignes COMMUNITY VOICES HEARD Meeting with HRA Commissioner Robert Doar Low Wage Workers, Transitional Benefits & Work Supports SEPTEMBER, 18, 2007 Hello, my name is Maimuna DesVignes. I am a leader at Community Voices Heard. I am a forty-nine years old. I am a divorced, displaced mom of two young adults. I live with my mom and share her bed because I am currently homeless. Although I am recently employed at 20-30 hours per week, I still do not earn enough to get my own apartment. I have been on public assistance since December 2005 and immediately was enrolled in the FEGS We Care program. Since May of 2007, I have been in a transitional status. At that time, I started working at 20-30 hours per week in a job which I found on my own because the job developer at my We Care program kept sending me to temporary agencies who did have any knowledge of my coming; or they sent me to appointments that didn’t exist. When I first enrolled in the We Care program I was homeless, jobless, and could benefit from further higher education. Also in May I was approved for an ITA Voucher to attend Bronx Community College for a course in business administration to begin in January 2008. I received a letter from HRA stating that I was reaching the maximum length of services for a single adult, which is 24 months. However, I am still homeless, working without benefits and have still not entered school to upgrade my skills. I was recently denied housing assistance by the newly established Home Base Program that is supposed to assist people like me. I do not think that I am benefiting from the transitional benefits that are supposed to help me. Instead of securing low wage worker supports and transitioning from welfare to self-sufficiency, I am faced with complete termination of services from welfare. Also, there are so many unknowns and no one to help me answer the questions that I have. For example, I have not found anyone who can tell me when does the transitional benefit period end for someone like me who still needs services? Also, what if the job I am on is not working out and I am fired? Do I have to start all over again on a 45 day wait period to receive benefits? I am still in need of assistance and there are many other people in my situation. I feel we should not be ashamed to say it. I feel that the low wage worker transitioning from welfare to work should be allotted more time to transition to self-sufficiency. Recommendation: The length of the transition period should be based on individual needs. HRA should equally ensure that clients of HRA are outreached to and afforded every opportunity to benefit from the CEO initiatives for increased worker supports with no penalty from HRA. Question: Will you establish a transitional period of at least 6 months during which new workers can stabilize their finances and continue cash and rent assistance while they transition to work?
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