Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fuel prices have big impact on the poor

A letter to the editor can be an effective tool to highlight the YWCA mission and to draw attention to priority issues-- especially when they are conspicuously not addressed by mainstream media. YWCA Milwaukee Executive Director Paula Penebaker recently responded to a May 16th cover story in Business Journal of Milwaukee describing how businesses are affected by rising fuel costs.

Fuel prices have big impact on the poor
originally published in The Business Journal of Milwaukee, Friday May 30, 2008

After having read your May 16 cover story on the impact of growing fuel prices on business, I felt compelled to offer a perspective on how the problem affects the poor.

If a poor person is fortunate enough to own a vehicle, it probably isn't the most fuel-efficient car on the road. If they earn $8.50 an hour ($340 gross a week) and have to spend $45 from their already meager salary for a tad more than 11 gallons of gas, how can they expect to make ends meet?

The 87 percent of their remaining gross wages has to cover the bare essentials of housing, utilities and food. This is a conundrum many of your readers will fortunately never have to contemplate, but is very real for a significant number of city residents.

In late 2004, the question was posed to Department of Workforce Development management relative to the amount of funding to support the W-2 program, "What happens if oil reaches $85 a barrel?" The response was something akin to, "We'll have to come back to the drawing board."
Today, funding available via the W-2 program barely supports the static caseload of hard-to-serve job seekers. As fuel prices continue to rise and jobs are lost as a result, funding to support those who will undoubtedly return to the program is nowhere in sight and we have yet to return to the drawing board.

I ask that your readers consider how the problem affects the poor among us, those who are expected to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and take care of themselves. We advocates for the poor can best serve them, sometimes by giving voice to their problems.

Paula Penebaker, YWCA Greater Milwaukee

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