COMMUNITY GROUPS DEMAND RELEASE OF FUNDS - Kristen Friend-Weaver06/19/03
Members and supporters of Florida ACORN, a national community advocacy group, gathered at the Diabetes Education office in St. Petersburg today to demand that Governor Bush release nearly a billion dollars in federal aid. The money is a part of a 20 billion dollar state relief package approved by congress in conjunction with President Bushâ€™s recent tax cuts. ACORN and other community groups want to see the money used to offset current budget and program cuts. WMNFâ€™s Kristen Friend-Weaver has moreâ€¦
Currently, the 941 million dollars allocated to Florida by congress has been set aside in what Governor Bush is calling a â€œrainy dayâ€? fund. ACORN members and their supporters argue that there is no need to save the money because programs across the state are facing cuts now. The St Petersburg Diabetes Education program, known as DIPPER, is one of the programs that will have to shut down within the month if Governor Bush does not release emergency funds. DIPPER was one of the first programs started as a part of the Governors Front Porch initiative, and spokespeople for DIPPER estimate that in the last two years the program has helped treat and educate approximately 5000 lower income and minority citizens. Betty Scott, DIPPERâ€™s program coordinator, says that there is still a need to focus attention on education in the realm of health careâ€¦
ACORN, along with the Service Employees International Union, known as SEIU, was a strong force in the drive to win funds at the federal level. The campaign, called Put Families First, was successful in alerting congress to the impending budget crisis in many states through direct action, letter writing and television ads. After fighting for the emergency funds, members of ACORN and SEIU are now frustrated that they are not being used in the way they feel congress intended. Louise Peterson, spokesperson for the St. Petersburg chapter of ACORN, pled with the Governor not to keep cutting programs for needy citizens. Peterson said that Floridians are suffering nowâ€¦
Members of the community who have benefited from DIPPER and the Medically Needy program also attended to voice their concerns. Ablena Manes, who has been a diabetic for 24 years, asked Governor Bush to release emergency funds because her medications cost her 600 dollars a month, and she cannot afford them without aid. Matty Wright, who has been a diabetic for 7 years, said that DIPPER was critical in helping keep her out of the hospital and avoid amputation.
Catherine Crumbs, a registered nurse agreed. Crumbs said that programs such as DIPPER are critical for lower income families and those who cannot afford health insurance. She said that education and prevention make good business sense because they cost much less in the long run than treatment...
Those who are critical of releasing the funds argue that they will be needed in the future because the budget crisis Florida is currently facing will only get worse. However, Josh Myles, a political coordinator for ACORN, says that there is no reason St Petersburg residents should suffer when the money they need is in Tallahasseeâ€¦