Nov 27, 2013 | Permalink »
Time to Carve Turkey, not SNAP
By Helly Lee
Thanksgiving is the ultimate food holiday. Many Americans will travel far and near to celebrate with friends and family around dinner tables filled with elaborately prepared food. However, for many low income families, the holidays are an especially difficult time. Many struggle to provide the basics for their families, let alone a celebratory Thanksgiving feast.
For over 22 million low income families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides support to ensure access to food. The average SNAP benefit of $1.50 per person, per meal barely covers a third of what an average serving of Thanksgiving dinner could cost. Yet, even these modest benefits are effective in reducing food insecurity. SNAP is also responsive to the economy, expanding to help those in need and boost the economy in downturns and contracting as the economy recovers and the needs are less. In fact, as the economy continues to slowly recover, SNAP costs have already started to fall.
However, SNAP continues to face deep cuts in Congress. Earlier this summer the Senate passed a farm bill that would cut $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years. The House-passed bill proposes to take an even more drastic bite out of SNAP, cutting over $40 billion over 10 years. The House cuts would take away SNAP benefits from 4 million people, including children and seniors. In addition, these massive reductions would make it harder for unemployed workers to receive benefits -- even if they were willing to work but are simply unable to find jobs -- and the cuts would also make SNAP less responsive in the next recession. This is a double hit on long-term unemployed workers, who face the added loss of federal extended unemployment benefits at the end of December.
Nov 04, 2013 | Permalink »
New Health Insurance Marketplaces Support Work
By Elizabeth Lower-Basch
This post originally appeared in "Spotlight on Poverty: The Source for News, Ideas, and Action."
Much attention has been paid in the last few weeks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so-called Obamacare. So far, most of that discussion has ranged from the launch of the federal website to the overall effectiveness of the ACA in providing healthcare insurance to those who need it. One element that has not been discussed much, however, is the enormous benefit the full implementation of the ACA will be in promoting work and ensuring that low-wage workers will not lose access to health insurance by accepting a job.
The truth is the Affordable Care Act fills a critical gap in coverage for low-income workers. Most people in the U.S. are covered by health insurance that is provided through a job, either their own or a parent or spouse’s. Retirees receive health insurance from Medicare. And most low-income children who are not covered by employer-sponsored insurance are eligible for public health insurance through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). But, until the implementation of the ACA, many working poor adults were out of luck. As of January 2013, workers without children were completely ineligible for public health coverage in half the states, while other states provided only limited insurance packages, or capped enrollment. In January 2013, 33 states set the Medicaid eligibility limit for parents at less than the federal poverty level – around $19,500 for a family of three – with 16 states limiting eligibility to parents with incomes less than half that threshold.
These eligibility limits have been particularly harmful because low-wage and part-time workers are far less likely than higher-earning workers to be offered employer-sponsored health insurance or to be able to afford it even when offered. Based on a March 2013 survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that just 28 percent of the workers with wages in the lowest 10 percent of the wage distribution – those earning $8.75 an hour or less – were offered insurance coverage, and just 11 percent of such workers participated in employer-based health insurance. By contrast, 94 percent of those with wages in the top 25 percent – those earning $27.60 an hour or more – were offered coverage. Part-time workers were also far less likely to be offered health insurance than full-time workers. As a result, among adults ages 18-64, those who worked but were employed less than year-round full-time were actually more likely to be uninsured than those who did not work even a single week.
Nov 01, 2013 | Permalink »
SNAP Benefits Decline for Low-Income People; Cuts Highlight Importance of Nutrition Aid
Starting today, 47 million people who receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including 22 million children and 9 million elderly and disabled people, will see a five percent cut in their monthly SNAP benefits. These cuts add up to an estimated $11 billion over three years. Moreover, households receiving SNAP could see even deeper cuts as a Congressional conference committee works to reconcile the House and Senate Farm bills.
On Wednesday, House and Senate members met for the committee’s first session. During opening statements, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) reminded Farm Bill conferees that, as a result of the cuts taking effect this week, “families will have 16 fewer meals per month…We must not make a bad situation even worse by piling on even deeper cuts.” Across the aisle, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) also drew attention to the importance of SNAP, explaining that “our nutrition assistance program plays a key role in ensuring that needy Americans have access to the food they need to lead healthy, productive lives.”
The House and Senate bills are far apart, but both contain cuts to SNAP. The Senate passed bill (S. 954 contains $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP over ten years. The House nutrition bill (passed last month as H.R. 2642 proposes approximately $40 billion in cuts to SNAP over ten years. Moreover, the House bill includes harsh provisions that would deny SNAP benefits to unemployed workers even if they were willing to participate in employment search activities; reinstate antiquated asset limits; allow suspicionless drug testing of recipients; and further penalize ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society. Farm Bill conferees are now tasked with reconciling these very different proposals and passing legislation. Because the legislation contains critical provisions on agriculture, there is great pressure for the House and Senate conferees to act before the end of December.
SNAP is an effective work supports program that helps unemployed and low-wage workers; boosts local economies and; significantly improves children’s long-term health, educational, and economic outcomes. Congress must pass a bill that does not weaken this critical safety net program.