Kenyatta blasts Pa. Supreme Court for abandoning state’s most vulnerable residents in GA ruling

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 20 – State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta called Wednesday’s ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to deny cash assistance to the commonwealth’s most needy citizens a travesty of justice. 


“General Assistance should never have been eliminated in the first place,” Kenyatta said. “And now our state’s highest court has taken the cowardly road instead of standing up for the most vulnerable among us. To say that I am angry by this ruling and the way people living in poverty and in distress are treated in Pennsylvania is an understatement. This is a travesty of justice and appalling indifference toward humanity.”


Specifically, the PA Supreme Court ruled that the lower Commonwealth Court had merit to decide that the groups challenging the law that eliminated the program did not prove they were likely to win their case in the underlying lawsuit, and therefore had no obligation to restore the monthly relief to some 11,000 Pennsylvanians.


According to Kenyatta, GA provided roughly $200 a month to help people in need afford life’s necessities – including soap, toothpaste, meals and a ride to work, assistance that is later reimbursed to states by the federal government. The program was eliminated during 2019-20 state budget negotiations.


“General Assistance is a critical lifeline for our poorest and most vulnerable citizens, snatched away in a so-called compromise for other budgetary issues,” Kenyatta said. “Families living below the poverty line, veterans, domestic violence survivors and people in active drug treatment should not be compromised, but that’s exactly what their government is doing to them in eliminating GA. We are talking $24.5 million in a $34 billion dollar budget. I don’t know how the legislators who voted to end this critical program and the justices who backed them up can sleep at night or look the folks they are hurting in the eye and tell them that their needs are not worth consideration.


“It’s our obligation as public servants to do what’s in the best interest of all Pennsylvanians, not just those who see critical programs and services for the poor as something that can be bargained away for other priorities. However, that’s the exact message the legislature and administration sent back in June when they ended it. And now the Supreme Court of our commonwealth is too craven to judge the program on its merits, washing their hands of it as they send people’s lives back to the lower courts for prolonged litigation. It’s appalling and inexcusable.” 


Kenyatta said he is not giving up on those who rely on the program and will be looking for other ways to reinstate this small benefit to Pennsylvanians in distress. In July he introduced legislation (H.B. 1709) with state Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester, that would connect people who were kicked off GA with emergency relief. That bill has languished in the House Health Committee since.


“I will not give up on people who are regularly given no voice in our halls of government,” Kenyatta said. “As we head into Christmas, I ask my colleagues to consider the compassion and generosity that permeates the season, and to consider our moral obligations to those we serve.”