The following statement can be attributed to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, president and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
Washington, D.C., May 31, 2023—This evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan budget agreement by a vote of 314 to 117. This brings the United States one step closer to averting a domestic and possibly global crisis caused by breaching our arbitrary debt ceiling limit. Fortunately, the deal excludes many of the draconian budget cuts and policy changes proposed by extremists in the House Republican caucus earlier this month. But it does include several provisions that would deeply harm people struggling to make ends meet. And the measure does nothing to correct the nation’s revenue shortfall.
Notably, the bill raises the age from 49 to 54 for time limits linked to so-called work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) among adults not raising children who need help putting food on the table. The narrowing of SNAP benefits for this age group would harm people with low incomes who have disabilities or are unpaid caregivers to loved ones by restricting their access to nutrition assistance. Our social protection system fails many people with disabilities, as well as caregivers whose work remains undervalued yet vital to our society. These provisions would increase their risk of hunger. Thankfully, the agreement includes exemptions from time limits for veterans, people who are experiencing homelessness, and young people aging out of the foster care system.
In a victory for tens of millions of Americans, the bill makes no changes to Medicaid or the president’s student debt relief measures. It does, however, amplify burdensome requirements in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, making it more difficult for some of the very lowest income families with children to receive the program’s meager but important benefits.
The bill also institutes damaging caps on non-defense, non-veterans discretionary spending for the next two years. When taken together with years of inadequate appropriations, we estimate these limits could lead to the loss of some 62,000 child care slots, undermine the enforcement of basic labor protections, and weaken public health and food safety measures, among other harmful consequences.
If extremist policymakers were serious about addressing deficits, they would look at both the expense side of the ledger, including a military budget rife with high-risk spending items, and the revenue side. Yet the bill, which focuses solely on spending—and actually reduces revenues by shrinking IRS resources to collect taxes owed by corporations and the wealthy—asks absolutely nothing of millionaires and billionaires who should contribute to reducing our national debt. As a result, the rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer. Reducing deficits should never increase inequality.
CLASP is committed to reversing the agreement’s harmful policies.
The American people simply should have never been in this predicament in the first place. The debt ceiling is a self-imposed artificial limit on paying outstanding obligations. It overlooks this country’s unique and powerful position of issuing some of the safest investments in the world. It should be eliminated.
The following statement can be attributed to Wendy Cervantes, director of immigration and immigrant families at the Center for Law and Social Policy.
Washington, D.C., May 17, 2023 — We are extremely disappointed that today the Senate advanced a measure under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Biden Administration’s 2022 public charge rule in a vote of 50-47. We are concerned that many of our nation’s leaders failed to recognize the importance of protecting the new public charge rule, which has been critical in correcting the significant harms of the 2019 rule and restoring immigrant families’ confidence in seeking out benefits they or their children may be eligible for.
No one should be deterred from accessing health care, food, or other basic needs out of fear that doing so may compromise their ability to obtain a green card and remain with their family. The 2019 public charge rule created a chilling effect with grave consequences. Even after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, research shows that immigrant families avoided a range of public benefits, and that more than a quarter of a million children in immigrant families–the vast majority of whom are U.S. citizens–were unenrolled from health care programs.
We call on the House of Representatives to stop this proposal from moving forward. While the White House has already stated its intent to veto this measure, we know that any effort to move forward with this legislation creates fear and confusion among immigrant communities. We urge all our policymakers to act with courage and responsibility in their response to the challenges facing our immigration system. This includes not falling prey to misguided and xenophobic attempts to scapegoat and harm immigrant families whose contributions are so vital to our nation’s future.
By Akeisha Latch
Access to fresh, affordable, and nutritious food is not only essential to food security but also a human right. After the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic in 2020, the share of Americans who were food insecure rose to 38 percent, the highest levels ever documented in the United States. Nearly half of families with children experienced food insecurity during the pandemic. Due to structural inequities, families of color are more likely to experience food insecurity and have lower access to healthy affordable foods in their neighborhoods and communities. With this year’s food prices predicted to increase by 7.9 percent, it is important that SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Association Program) participants have access to Double Up Food Bucks and other federal programs that reduce hunger and improve healthy food access.
Double Up Food Bucks is a nutrition incentive program of Fair Food Network, a national nonprofit, that matches fruit and vegetable purchases dollar for dollar, up to $10 a day, allowing families to get twice the amount of produce—or more bang for their buck. The Double Up Food Bucks program is one variation of program models that are federally funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP). Double Up Food Bucks increases the purchase of fruits and vegetables by providing incentives at point of sale for income-eligible SNAP participants.
A mother and Double Up Food Bucks user shares her perspective on the program: “To provide your children with a healthier lifestyle [and] provide yourself with a healthier lifestyle that extra 20 to 40 dollars […] is awesome.”
To truly ensure that families are getting more, the benefit of double purchasing power should be more equitably accessible across grocery stores and geographies for SNAP recipients who live in food deserts and experience food apartheid. GusNIP grant programs and nutrition incentives, like Double Up Food Bucks, provide much-needed benefits for communities of color and for Black- and brown-owned grocery businesses. Policymakers should provide adequate funding to advance the program’s impact and help support the mission of organizations like the Fair Food Network that help communities and grocery stores complete the application, access funding, and alleviate burdensome administrative costs.
Some policymakers believe that those receiving SNAP benefits would have healthier diets if they were better educated on healthy food choices. However, the harsh truth is that people who receive SNAP often cannot afford to purchase fresh, nutritious food options or those options are not available in their communities. Research finds that fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be more expensive and not subsidized as compared to processed foods. Nutrition incentives such as Double Up Food Bucks that link purchasing power to the nutritional quality of food are effective public policies that our nation should expand.
Expansion to more grocery stores would boost access to healthy food
Despite Double Up Bucks’ effectiveness, barriers to access remain, including the limited number of vendors that participate in the program. The program currently operates in 27 states, and only 13 of those states operate the program at grocery stores, which are often more accessible for communities than farmers’ markets. The remaining states operate their programs out of farmer’s markets, which are commonly located in rural areas with larger populations of residents who are white and have higher socioeconomic statuses. Also, farmers’ markets are often open at limited hours when community members may be working or caring for their families. Expanding Double Up Bucks to more grocery stores is imperative to increasing access for marginalized communities that experience food apartheid.
Uplifting rather than demonizing individuals experiencing poverty means we must create policies and programs that truly meet their needs and make it possible for families to lead happy, healthy, and economically secure lives. Families should not have to make tough decisions on where to buy groceries or the types of groceries to purchase. The Double Up Food Bucks program can maximize access to healthy food and reinforce personal agency. This program, in coordination with SNAP, meets the needs of so many and should continue to be highlighted and expanded.
On May 17, 2023 Indivar Dutta-Gupta testified before the Joint Economic Committee to discuss the risks posed by the recent House-passed bill that would institute unprecedented and dangerous budget cuts while suspending our arbitrary federal debt limit for no longer than 10 months. The House Republican bill threatens to default on our nation’s bills and send our economy into a tailspin if Congress doesn’t cut core investments that families and communities rely on for their wellbeing and to access opportunity in this country—investments like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, income supports, education and job training, child care assistance, climate interventions, and more.
On May 11, 2023 Indi Dutta-Gupta testified before the House Budget Committee on protecting American families from attempts to hold hostage policies that support them.
This testimony first explains at a high level why many people in the United States rely on specific federal programs to achieve economic security and access economic opportunity and how federal policies—in particular—effectively meet many of these needs. Next, the testimony explains why the deep cuts mandated under the McCarthy debt ceiling bill would undermine the nation’s well-being, including through counterproductive cuts to child care, workforce development, and postsecondary education. The testimony then explains why revenues must be a major part of the answer to concerns about deficits and debt. It concludes by highlighting the dangers of failing to raise our arbitrary threshold on the amount of outstanding obligations we allow ourselves to pay and urging Congress to act swiftly to avoid this self-inflicted wound to our prosperity.
By Suzanne Wikle
Congressional Republicans and Arkansas administrators have both recently revived the idea of so-called work requirements for Medicaid. The two proposals are contradictory in their approach, yet both are wrong. President Biden has rightfully pledged to not take away people’s health care or increase poverty as part of the debt ceiling negotiations. The administration must hold this line and reject any new work requirements for Medicaid, or increased work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
We’ve known for decades that work requirements in SNAP and TANF primarily serve to limit people’s access to programs. They don’t equip people with tools or employment that allow them to leave poverty. In 2018, not surprisingly, we learned that work requirements in Medicaid produce the same results.
In 2018 Arkansas became the first state to implement work requirements in Medicaid, under a waiver approved by the Trump Administration. As a result, 18,000 people lost Medicaid coverage and there was no significant increase in employment. Federal courts eventually blocked this waiver as inconsistent with the intent of the Medicaid program.
Un-deterred by the data, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are doubling down on this bad idea in the debt ceiling debate. They’re putting forward a proposal that would force all states to impose work requirements — requiring people to navigate a paperwork maze to prove they are in compliance of working enough or exempt from the requirement, and losing coverage if they don’t.
It would put coverage at risk for 10 to 21 million people.
The approach reiterates the false and paternalistic narrative that people experiencing poverty do not want to work, so they must be forced or incentivized to do so. It’s part of the deeply racist history of work requirements.
Speaker McCarthy’s caucus is pursuing the same onerous and punitive type of work requirements that ultimately do nothing to help people get ahead in life while simultaneously cutting people off essential safety-net programs. Proposals to implement or “strengthen” work requirements are veiled attempts to cut programs and limit people’s access to health care, nutrition support, and limited cash assistance.
Ironically, Arkansas now acknowledges that their previous approach of onerous and punitive reporting requirements was not productive. In their latest proposal, the state says, “While the intent (of the work requirement) was to encourage beneficiaries to engage in their communities and the workforce to achieve economic growth and eventual independence from government dependency, the monthly reporting of engagement hours was burdensome”.
Arkansas is now proposing to provide many people enrolled in Medicaid with “success coaches” to help them address Health Related Social Needs (HRSN) and increase their income above the Medicaid eligibility threshold. Helping people with a resume won’t ensure they have access to affordable child care, affordable housing, and a living wage that allows them to meet their needs.
A more productive approach would be to eliminate red tape and ensure that every Arkansan eligible for Medicaid can enroll—and stay enrolled. We know that Medicaid enrollment supports employment and decreases family financial stress. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should reject the work-related components of Arkansas’ latest waiver.
Given all the evidence that work requirements don’t work, it’s reasonable to wonder why they are consistently raised, usually by leaders who ideologically oppose safety-net programs. One reason is that they know voters will reject straightforward proposals to cut or eliminate Medicaid. Recent election cycles have shown that voters don’t think politicians should take away peoples’ health care and state ballot initiatives have highlighted Medicaid’s popularity.
President Biden is right to draw a line in the debt ceiling debate, opposing any domestic spending cuts that will lead to people losing their health care or more living in poverty.
The House-passed debt ceiling bill now threatens all three programs with new or increased work requirements. Senate Democrats must help the White House hold this line. Further legitimizing work requirements as a reasonable policy is a slippery slope for continued attacks and cuts on programs.
CLASP supports the USDA’s proposed rule to lower the Community Eligibility Provision from 40 percent to 25 percent ISP, which is expected to create the opportunity for an additional 9 million students to have access to free school meals.
We recently marked three years since the start of the pandemic. During this extraordinary time, we have learned lessons, shared experiences, tested solutions, and revealed realities about the state of our economy, never-ending racial and gender inequities, a democracy under constant siege, and basic human fatigue. Throughout it all, CLASP has remained nimble and responsive, advancing public policy that meets human needs and upholds human dignity. At the end of the day, what we seek is impact.
We want impact that is tangible. Impact that is transformative and durable. Impact that guides our efforts at every level. For every challenge we seek to address, we want to create short- and long-term impact for the tens of millions of children and families with low incomes, working people, youth and young adults, immigrants, and communities of color across the nation.
We hold the truths that we need dramatic and fundamental changes and that people who are suffering lack the luxury of waiting for the perfect solution. We develop and support effective compromises that make our eventual goals more achievable and resist those that undermine the world we are working to create. And we never lose sight of that ultimate vision as we build the knowledge and support necessary to win victories along the way.
2022 was a year of major changes for CLASP—from the transition of long-time executive director, Olivia Golden, to the beginning of my tenure as CLASP’s new president and executive director. Ushering in a new chapter, CLASP began a journey of realigning our vision and purpose, building on more than 50 years of impact at the local, state, and national levels. We are strengthening that impact by deepening our Hill presence and our partnerships to center people, equity, and our democracy in major policy proposals.
We recognize that our struggles are interconnected and that solutions are often crosscutting. This means creating policy solutions that build systems and structures to advance equity and make our democracy more responsive to people who are marginalized and excluded. For our solutions to work, we must deepen our engagement with individuals who have lived experiences with the challenges we address as strategic thought partners and experts. For people to trust us, we must provide valuable research, analysis, and evidence.
We remain ever grateful to our extended family of partners, collaborators, and funders. Your investments—financial and otherwise—have helped CLASP navigate times of uncertainty, opportunity, and threats. As we look ahead, impact will be our North Star, guiding our internal and external strategies, advocacy priorities, and collaborations.
Indivar “Indi” Dutta-Gupta
President and Executive Director
Support CLASP to continue more of this work in 2022 and beyond with a monthly or one-time gift that will help kids and families with low incomes become economically secure.
What they’re saying: Parker Gilkesson, senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy who specializes in SNAP, anti-poverty and racial equity, tells Axios that the Biden administration could do a “much better job” of addressing hunger and the root causes behind it.
Read the full article here.
By Caitlin Jensen and Ashley Burnside
Montana state legislators have a historic opportunity to enact a state child tax credit, first proposed by Gov. Greg Gianforte earlier this year as part of his budget. This policy, which would provide low-income taxpayers with an annual credit of $1,200 per child under age 6, was nearly scuttled because some lawmakers believed it would preclude the state from making necessary investments in child care. But the fact remains that Montana children and families need both: a state child tax credit and more funding for child care. One program can’t replace the other, and both are urgently needed to invest in the well-being of Montana’s next generation of children.
Read the full article here.