MARCH 5, 1960
BOSTON—Not only this year but on occasion during several years past there have been sudden freezes during the winter season that have caused the vegetable and fruit crop in Florida to fail, thus removing work opportunities for about 7,000 migrant workers. This loss of work, caused by a quirk of nature, forces these people and their families to go hungry. It is a problem that needs attention very urgently so that these people can be assured of some relief.
There has just been published an editorial in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times that calls our notice to the situation. It reads, in part: "No doubt some means will be found to keep these families from starving....but so far as any real solution of the recurrent problem of relief for these itinerant farm hands, so indispensable to our winter agricultural economy, no apparent progress has been made."
These are the workers who move from state to state; therefore, no state wants to assume responsibility for them. The growers themselves resist the idea of a few pennies tax on crates of vegetables or baskets of fruit to provide special unemployment insurance. They protest that when a freeze comes they suffer as much as the workers.
It seems again to be a case where local, state and Federal governments and the industry must take joint responsibility to find solutions to the many problems facing migrant workers.
Now to turn to another important problem facing us today.
There is a bill now before the House of Representatives, about which I have written before. This bill is designated H.R. 134, sponsored by Rep. Eugene J. Keogh (D., N.Y.), and it provides for tax relief for orthopedic, handicapped taxpayers.
It calls for tax deductions for the disabled of expenses for going to and from work up to $600 a year and for a straight $600 exemption as an offset to other special living costs with which the disabled are saddled. The bill has been endorsed by the New York State Medical Society and by an impressive list of social welfare, religious and labor organizations.
It is a prideful accomplishment for disabled persons to become self-supporting, but in doing so they often need cars to go back and forth to work—cars that are specially equipped—or they have to hire cars to take them to and from their places of employment. They often need wheel chairs to get around. Their clothes wear out faster than do those of the rest of us. Many of them must have braces and various other devices, which have to be kept in order.
Now, some of these things can be charged off to medical expenses, but only that portion that exceeds 3 percent of the individual's adjusted gross income can be deducted in this way.
When a handicapped person becomes self-supporting and is able to contribute to a family's support it saves some community money. Therefore, some tax relief for the physically handicapped is essential. If it is not forthcoming we may find many of them giving up their struggle and going back on public welfare. Then, not only will the burden have to be borne by other taxpaying citizens, but such action would be very bad for the handicapped persons' morale.
I hope everyone reading this column will communicate with his representative in Congress and urge that this bill, which has been up for consideration before, be passed this year.