Marchers root for social services
SALEM -- A brain-damaged woman who had lost home care. A
disabled woman whose health coverage no longer includes
incontinence medicine. A counselor to young women leaving
the correctional system -- now out of a job.
These and about 900 other people demonstrated Saturday
against social service cuts.
Clutching signs and umbrellas, a crowd representing 70
social service groups, unions, nonprofits and community
organizations gathered in a light rain Saturday afternoon at
the Salem Civic Center. Steering wheelchairs and baby
carriages, chanting slogans like "Legislators hear our plea,
someday you'll be elderly," they surged to the steps of the
Lawmakers made repeated cuts to the programs because of
worsening tax shortfalls in the current budget, and state
programs now face a $2.5 billion shortfall in the next
budget. In February, legislators cut the Medically Needy
Program for 9,000 Oregonians and Health Plan coverage for
100,000. In March, they partially restored both -- through
June 30. It is unknown whether that coverage will be
extended after July 1.
Others are worse off The crowd included Lauren Spector of
Central Point, a 56-year-old woman whose battle with
fibromyalgia, asthma and depression intensified when she
lost her Oregon Health Plan coverage for $330 in
prescription drugs each month.
"It's been very distressing," she said. "But I worry for
people who are worse off than me. For those who aren't
Nearby, Renee Peck, a 39-year-old woman who suffered an
injury to her brain, sat in a wheelchair beside her mother,
Jan Wallace of Silverton. Peck recently lost caretaker hours
as well as Oregon Health Plan coverage for incontinence
"It may seem like a small thing, but it's a big thing for a
39-year-old woman who liked being independent in the
bathroom," Wallace said. "I help her when I can, but I'm 63,
and I have problems too."
Nicole Tollefson of Corvallis was there. She recently lost
her job as a group life coordinator for the Corvallis House.
The facility helps young women who are moving from
correctional facilities back into regular living and lost
several workers through budget cuts.
"These are women who need to learn how to balance a
checkbook, who sometimes don't even know how to go to a
store and get hygiene products," she said, standing with her
husband and 4-year-old son. She's worried for her family --
now struggling to get by -- as well as the young women she
Whistle stop Along their route, marchers stopped to chant in
front of the Oregon Medical Assistance Program office, which
no longer provides many benefits to medically fragile
people. At the Marion County Courthouse and the Department
of Justice, they stopped to decry the shutdown of juvenile
correctional facilities and state police layoffs. At the
Association of Oregon Industries, they stopped to blow
whistles and demand the closure of tax loopholes for
And at the end of the day, many vowed to keep fighting for
social services, even though attention has shifted from the
state budget to the war.
"There's a lot of peace rallies going on and rallies to
support the troops -- there's been a lot of focus on that
and rightfully so," said Lori Ellis, a spokeswoman for the
Service Employees International Union.
But devastating cuts threaten lives in Oregon, she said.
"We're trying to bring some attention to let those people
know we haven't forgotten them," she said. "We're sending a
message to the governor and legislature that we need
long-term revenue reform."
Kate Taylor: 503-294-5116; email@example.com