Ed Eichenlaub is the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s Senate in District 37, which includes portions of both Allegheny County and Washington County. Below are his answers to our five 2016 Voter Guide questions for state candidates on the ballot in Allegheny County.
His opponent is the incumbent, current State Senator Guy Reschenthaler (R), who declined to participate in this voter guide.
1. Do you support an increase in the TANF cash grant from its current level of $403/month for a family of three?
Yes, the current rate is roughly $100/week. If this were used just for food, each person would be allotted $1.59 per meal. Healthy, substantial food that is nutritionally filling cannot be purchased for this meager amount. For example, boxed macaroni and cheese is less than a dollar a box, but the essential additional components of milk and butter raise the total cost to over the budgeted amount. It is hard to imagine the average monthly budget for a family of three, including utilities, rent, soap, toothpaste and the fundamental items such as utensils, furniture (table and chairs) add to the cost just to survive. It is important that we support the familial unit and help to provide the bare minimum financial support when times demand it, less they suffer in a manner unacceptable in any third world nation.
2. Do you support an increase in the TANF Earned Income Disregard to 75% and expanding it to applicants for benefits?
Yes, I would support HB 2431 and the increase to a minimum of 75% to aid in the gradual transition that would help families get closer to the poverty level (i.e. further out of poverty) before losing their TANF benefits altogether. The disregard should also be extended to applicants to ensure that all low-income families are being treated equally and are getting the help that they desperately need. Ultimately, this will allow more struggling PA families to receive at least a partial TANF grant while they work to climb out of poverty. We need to make work pay for families on TANF!
3. Do you support raising corporate taxes and eliminating corporate tax loopholes in order to fully fund human services and reduce the state’s structural deficit?
Yes, many corporations fail to pay their fair share through unscrupulous mechanisms, allowing them to bank profits and hide losses. With the growing margins for funding deficits, the human services sector suffers, as do the recipients that rely on these life sustaining programs. We need to educate and eliminate wasteful practices to reduce the growing practices that enhance the state deficit.
4. Do you support drug testing applicants for Food Stamps (SNAP) and/or other public benefits?
No, I do not support recipients having to be drug tested; I believe that this is a form of bullying. I do not think that the government should have the right to test the recipients for drugs. Those that need help, in my opinion, deserve help. For example, those recipients on food stamps should not be subject to denial of basic access to food solely on the results of a drug test.
5. Do you support barring people convicted of a drug felony from receiving food stamps after they’ve served their sentence?
No, substance abuse is one of the most difficult problems to address. The judicial system has evolved and is tested with each and every case. The brightest and most resourceful physicians, judges and professionals have dedicated their careers to addressing this. To hinder the process of lasting recovery would be detrimental to society.