Issue #11, March 23, 2015

Congressional Budget Proposals and SNAP

GOP House Budget Would be a Disaster for Millions of Americans – FRAC, March 19, 2015
The House Budget Committee Republican plan, if ever enacted, would be a disaster for low- and moderate-income Americans. Its nutrition program cuts alone would irreparably harm tens of millions of people living below or just above the poverty line. The most prominent nutrition proposal in the plan would “block grant” the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – repeating a bad idea rejected by Congress and Presidents for two decades – and cut eligibility and benefits for the program by about $125 billion.

The Republican Plan to Sabotage The Food Stamp Program – ThinkProgress, March 17, 2015
Republicans in Congress are proposing to turn SNAP into a state block grant program, which would make states develop their own rules rather than relying on federal rules for the program, require state staff to inspect and authorize retail stores participating in the program, and establish financial transaction systems between companies furnishing benefit cards and actual SNAP accounts. “Block granting is not generally viewed as a good idea, and we don’t see states asking for it,” said Stacey Dean of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. According to the Congressional Budget Office, SNAP cost cutting of this magnitude would mean a fifth of all SNAP families would lose benefits, or the poorest on the program would lose several hundred dollars in benefits per year.

CBO: Food stamp cuts would hit poorest the hardest – The Hill, March 16, 2015
Those Americans making the lowest incomes would be hit hardest by current Congressional proposals to cut the SNAP Program budget, with families making less than $15,000 a year losing $600 a year in SNAP benefits, according to a new study from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The report shows how harmful SNAP cuts would be, say House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who asked CBO for the study. “We cannot continue attempting to balance a budget on the backs of the most vulnerable while providing giveaways to the richest amongst us,” said Lee in a statement.

Special Report: Federal cuts increased reliance on charitable food programs – Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, March 9, 2015
Two national SNAP funding cuts have put increased demands on food banks and are affecting their supplies, according to Gina Styer, communications manager at Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. Starting April 1, the state will institute additional cuts when it reinstates federal work requirements for SNAP recipients. The Hunger Task Force found that nearly 90 percent of food pantry clients are eligible for SNAP (known as FoodShare in Wisconsin), but less than half of them receive benefits. “We want our pantries to talk to people about their conditions so that they can use the federal programs,” said Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force food bank.


SNAP and Farmers’ Markets

Shopping farmer’s markets with SNAP benefits gains steam – Twin Cities Daily Planet, March 12, 2015
Legislation in Minnesota would provide millions for the “Healthy eating, here at home” grant program, which would allow farmer’s markets to provide $10 vouchers for SNAP participants using their EBT cards for healthy market purchases. If the state gets a waiver from USDA, grocery stores could also accept vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetable purchases. “This is something I strongly support,” said Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), chair of the Minnesota’s House Agriculture Finance Committee. According to Colleen Moriarity, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, the success of pilots shows it’s time to expand the program statewide, which would assist up to 495,000 SNAP recipients.

School Meals

School Breakfast Grows to Boost Learning, Attendance – Arizona Education News, March 12, 2015
Efforts by the Arizona Department of Education and community partners to move breakfast into the classroom and provide the meal to all students in some schools have helped increase meal participation 18 percent, from 39,879,352 in 2009-10 to 48,723,517 last year. “There are over 1,600 sites participating in the School Breakfast Program in Arizona,” said Mary Szafranski, associate schools superintendent. “Last school year, over 50 million school breakfasts and over 106.5 million school lunches were served.” According to FRAC’s recent school breakfast report, the number of Arizona students eligible for subsidized school meals who participated in school breakfast increased 4.1 percent between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years.

Many Ohioans living paycheck to paycheck, report shows – Columbus Dispatch, March 11, 2015
Ohio Department of Education figures show nearly 43 percent of students – nearly 788,000 – received free or reduced-price meals last year. “[T]hese children could fill Ohio Stadium over seven times,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. “Many families with children are not seeing the economic recovery that some are experiencing.”
An unanticipated crisis and lack of financial cushion forces nearly one in three Ohio residents into temporary poverty, according to the annual State of Poverty in Ohio report.

Welfare and Asset Tests

The Forgotten 1980s Rule That’s Hurting Poor Families’ Savings – The Atlantic, March 11, 2015
Ohio and Virginia, two of the first states to eliminate asset tests for welfare recipients, found that they saved money when caseworkers were not required to verify applicant assets, notes Leah Hamilton, professor of social work at Appalachian State University, in this article. In a recently published article, she and her co-authors found that five states* that either increased or eliminated their asset tests saw no increase or decrease in welfare enrollment. These limits aren’t necessary to prevent program fraud, and actually discourage self-sufficiency, writes Hamilton. “Assets matter because they have the power to insulate families from financial emergencies, purchase homes, and send children to college,” in addition to their positive mental and physical health implications.
*Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland.

Poverty in the U.S.

Cities are becoming more affluent while poverty is rising in inner suburbs – and that has implications for schools - The Washington Post, February 26, 2015
A University of Virginia study analyzing demographic changes in 66 cities from 1990 to 2012 found that the inner suburbs are seeing rising poverty rates. The poverty rate was high in the District in 1990, and fell in the suburbs; by 2012, city center poverty was lower, but higher in the inner suburbs, and dropped again in the outer suburbs. The number of students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals – which often mirrors poverty rates – in Montgomery County, Maryland (an affluent suburb of D.C.) increased from 29 percent in 2009 to 35 percent in 2012.

Agencies urge use of new measure in weighing poverty – Warwick Beacon, March 18, 2015
Created in 2011 by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) shows that child poverty rates would nearly double without national and local anti-poverty programs, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Kids Count are urging policymakers to use SPM in addition to the official poverty numbers. Without government programs, the child poverty rate would increase from 18 percent to 33 percent, and in Rhode Island the rate would increase from 16 percent to 33 percent. “[SPM] shows the importance of preserving and strengthening anti-poverty programs that are decreasing child poverty and improving the lives of thousands of Rhode Island’s children and families,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count.

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