Billie Washington was struggling to make ends meet. A former home care attendant, she was no longer able to work due to her rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other illnesses. While waiting for her disability benefits hearing, she began receiving General Assistance. Ms. Washington carefully budgeted the monthly $205.00 to cover her rent, toiletries, medical co-payments, and public transportation to get to doctor's appointments. When she found out that General Assistance was being eliminated, Ms. Washington felt like she had the rug yanked out from under her. Describing the feeling of desperation, she said, "I was crushed. I just, I didn't know what I was going to do."
She turned to Community Legal Services for help and attorney Michael Froehlich took up her case. With his representation, Ms. Washington will be the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to reinstate the General Assistance program for 68,000 former recipients. "I'm overwhelmed to realize that someone really cares. I'm really happy that everyone at CLS is taking such a great interest; without their authority, no one is going to listen... I'm glad CLS is here to make people listen and understand what we're going through."
Ms. Washington is taking it day by day. "You've got to pray. Try to keep your head above water. It's just hard." She can no longer afford all of the medications that she needs and is forced to make difficult compromises that could further affect her health. People with disabilities across the state have been put into similar vulnerable positions. On October 1, 2012, CLS, along with three other law firms acting as co-counsel, filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court. CLS is determined to provide Ms. Washington with the very best representation, and further, to stand up for the 68,000 people whose lives are affected by the state's decision to eliminate General Assistance.