The House Agriculture Committee has put forth a Farm Bill reauthorization which would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), by $16 billion over the next decade.
SNAP is one of the most effective first lines of defense against hunger in the United States and has been critical in responding to food insecurity and improving health outcomes, especially during the recent recession.
In 2010, SNAP lifted 3.9 million Americans above the poverty line, including 1.7 million children. In New England, SNAP kept 179,142 households out of poverty, including 68,000 children.
Approximately 175,000 Connecticut households were receiving SNAP benefits in 2010, with a monthly average of approximately $258 per household. When including SNAP benefits as income, an additional 17.5% of the Connecticut households were raised above the poverty line.
SNAP is also considered by economists to be one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus during times of high unemployment. Moody’s Analytics estimates every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.72 in economic activity and rates increases in SNAP benefits first in cost-effectiveness among 22 tax and spending options examined to promote economic growth and jobs in a weak economy.
Most Americans understand the important role of food stamps, especially in a weak economy like this one, and support the program. According to a recent poll by the Food Research and Action Center, more than three-fourths of American voters oppose cutting food stamps to reduce spending.
Tell your Representative to reject efforts to weaken SNAP:
Congressman John Larson (202)225-2265
Congressman Joe Courtney (202) 225-2076
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (202) 225-3661
Congressman Jim Himes (202) 225-5541
Congressman Chris Murphy (202) 225-4476
The divide in wealth among whites, Black and Hispanics is only worsening with the recession.
CAHS recently analyzed Opportunity in Connecticut and found significant gaps in income, education and wealth among racial groups.
According to CNN Money, analyzing census data, the same patterns exists and is worsening nationally:
"White Americans have 22 times more wealth than blacks -- a gap that nearly doubled during the Great Recession.
"The median household net worth for whites was $110,729 in 2010, versus $4,995 for blacks, according to recently released Census Bureau figures.
"The difference is similarly notable when it comes to Hispanics, who had a median household net worth of $7,424. The ratio between white and Hispanic wealth expanded to 15 to 1.
"The gap between the races widened considerably during the recent economic downturn, which whites weathered better than blacks, Hispanics and Asians.
"The latter three groups saw their median household net worth fall by roughly 60% between 2005 and 2010, while the median net worth for white households slipped only 23%.
"This allowed whites to leap ahead of Asians as the race with the highest median household net worth."
The Economic Policy Institute, examining Federal Reserve data, finds similar divides between increasing as income and wealth drops at various rates. Overall:
"In terms of wealth, only the richest American families have come out of the Great Recession relatively unscathed. Significant declines in wealth have been broadly felt. But the losses to black and Hispanic families are particularly damaging because they are quite large, and they were experienced by groups that had very low levels of wealth even before the recession hit."
Unchecked, CNN concludes, these trends mean worsening divide and catastrophic economic implications for all of us:
"The widened wealth chasm could have major ramifications going forward, experts said. Having less wealth and home equity means it will be more difficult for blacks and Hispanics to send their children to college, which gives them a leg up on landing good jobs, said Roderick Harrison, senior research scientist at Howard University. That will further extend the wealth gap."
Opportunity on Connecticut offers policy recommendations to address the opportunity gap and address family economic success for all residents.
This blog post was contributed by CAHS Summer Intern Ellen Scully:
In the wake of the controversy surrounding misuse of Disaster SNAP or DSNAP funds, there is a need to shift the SNAP conversation from fraud to feasible improvements. Last week, the Hartford Courant posted the following quote from Southington Republican Senator Joseph Markley:
"Malloy has turned it into a story about these bad people, where the story should be: How can we operate this more efficiently?'' Markley said. "The governor and his [social services] commissioner have to take responsibility for it. The point is not who do we blame. The point is how do we fix it. That has been lost in the story.''
After CT Governor Daniel P. Malloy fired 103 state employees back in December for SNAP fraud after Tropical Storm Irene, the media buzz has been focused on the court dispute between the two parties rather than on the SNAP program itself. Attention and funds would be better served working with Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby to improve Connecticut’s SNAP benefit distribution.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as Food Stamps, is a Federal program. According to the Coalition Against Hunger, SNAP currently has historically low fraud rates under 1%.
This leads many Connecticut policymakers to believe no positive changes can be made on the state level. This is untrue.
More proactive CT policymakers are asking if there are more efficient, dependable ways Connecticut can allocate resources in the future within the Federal distribution guidelines. Addressing program inefficiency would mean more funds available for those who need it most. And now, more than ever, there is need.
A February WTNH News 8 article by Susan Haigh stated that:
“There were about 100,000 monthly cases in 2007, a figure that grew to more than 210,000 in 2011. Meanwhile, the number of state DSS eligibility workers charged with processing those applications has dropped from 800 in 2002 to more than 500 today.”
Possible improvements to the program range from application simplification to increased staffing and oversight. Further research into the possible state level SNAP improvements could mean easier and increased access to SNAP benefits for CT residents that need it most. In response to this scandal, Connecticut would benefit more from positive changes being made than from mere finger-pointing.
This blog post was contributed by CAHS Summer Intern, Ellen Scully:
Start Community Bank in New Haven announced the FeeKeeper Club Savings Account pilot program today to help people who use check cashing services easily turn the check cashing fees into a high-yield savings account.
According to the FDIC, unbanked and underbanked Connecticut residents often spend over 2% of their annual income cashing checks; this amounts to $1.5 billion total annually! There are so many better ways this money can be utilized and the FeeKeeper program offers one attractive option.
The FeeKeeper program is a simple, unique way for Connecticut residents to begin saving without drastically changing their day-to-day habits.
Interested individuals should visit one of Start Community Bank’s two New Haven branches before December 15th with a photo ID and check in hand. As usual, the individual will get their check cashed. However, rather than essentially throwing away a portion in fees, the “fee” equivalent will be put into a no-minimum balance savings account.
Start Community Bank welcomes Spanish speakers and offers a $50 cash bonus for individuals who participate in the club for six months.
The FeeKeeper program is part of a wider effort to “bank” Connecticut residents presently without checking or savings accounts. Start Community Bank is one of CAHS’ banking partners for its Bank On Connecticut initiative that strives to educate residents on the importance of having a bank account for emergencies, convenience, safety, and asset building. Start Community Bank partners with Junta for Progressive Action in Bank On Connecticut’s New Haven pilot program.
CAHS commends Start Community Bank’s creative FeeKeeper pilot program, and encourages all interested individuals to learn more at: https://www.startbank.com/feekeeper_club_savings_program.html
The Senate is working on the Farm bill and reached an agreement last night to move a number of amendments with votes starting at 2:15 this afternoon. Three bad SNAP amendments are in the queue, and two good ones.
The Sessions amendment #2174 would repeal SNAP’s categorical eligibility option, resulting in two million people being cut from the program.
Sessions amendment #2172 would eliminate SNAP state performance funds, thus weakening program integrity and operations in SNAP.
Senator Boozman’s amendment #2360 would also eliminate SNAP state performance funds and savings from the cut would be provided to food banks. While we are all for supporting food banks, this should not have to be done at the expense of SNAP.
Please urge Sen. Lieberman to reject each of these amendments and instead to support the Nelson and Gillibrand amendments (he co-sponsored Gillibrand, which restores SNAP funding, so we should be all set there).
Senator Ben Nelson has offered an amendment (Nelson #2243) that would ensure that state SNAP performance bonus funds would be reinvested into the SNAP program in order to enhance program effectiveness and reduce errors. Makes sense to me.
If you have time to reach out to Lieberman's office, you can reach them in DC at 202-224-4041.
This blog post was contributed by CAHS Summer Intern, Ellen Scully:
73,000 Connecticut households (5%) are presently unbanked, meaning they do not have a checking or savings account. These individuals are 50.7% Hispanic, 32.9% black, and 15.1% white. Over half of these households earn less than $15,000 annually.
As a result of being unbanked, these families pay substantial fees to cash checks and pay bills, cannot establish credit, and have no safe place to keep their money.
When surveyed, the unbanked cited four major reasons for not having bank accounts. First, they were unclear of what type of identification was required to open an account.
Second, unbanked individuals were concerned about the security of their information and money at banks, many times not knowing the FDIC provides $250,000 depositor insurance. Thirdly, the unbanked found that many banks have inconvenient locations and limited hours. Finally, this population expressed difficulty communicating with bank employees due to a language barrier.
In response to this problem, CAHS has launched Bank On Connecticut, a partnership of nonprofit organizations and Connecticut banks that are collaborating to offer individuals without bank accounts a way of learning about banking and opening a safe starter checking or savings account.
Bank On Connecticut hopes to teach these individuals that not only can banking be safe and convenient, but that it is a necessary step in both saving money and building financial assets.
Bank On Connecticut is part of a wider national Bank On initiative aiming to “bank” the 7.7% of Americans who are currently unbanked.
For more information, visit www.bankonct.org
My op-ed in Saturday's Hartford Courant depicts a single encounter with one of the 109,000 workers in Connecticut who would benefit from a higher minimum wage.
There are still two days left for the Senate to call and vote on the minimum wage bill this year.
My hope was to get people thinking that most stores they drive by employ people who would benefit HB 5291. That'd be $10 more each week to spend on food, doctor visit co-pays, health insurance...money stimulating the local economy right away.
Not that most people need convincing: 70% of voters in a new Quinnipiac University Poll support an even larger hike than the one proposed. The Q Poll also reports that people fear the measure will result in fewer jobs, but economists have shown that's not the case.
Call your Senator today!
Dan Braccio of Bridgeport has an excellent letter to the editor in today's CT Post:
"All of our state legislators, urban and suburban, should strongly support HB 5291, the minimum wage bill. It is urgent that this legislation get called for a vote in the state Senate and passed before the end of the legislative session next week.
"HB 5291 will not significantly jeopardize job creation in Connecticut. In fact, it will create jobs because all low-wage earners who are the main beneficiaries of this legislation will use the approximately $520 per year (25 cents per hour, eight hours per day, five days per week, 52 weeks per year) to purchase food and other necessary household goods.
"The current minimum wage adjusted for inflation has not kept pace with the Consumer Price Index. Raising the minimum wage will prevent low-wage earners from falling further into poverty and will reduce, however slightly, the income inequality gap in Connecticut, which is the highest in the nation.
"Bridgeport and other cities need the minimum-wage increase to prevent a further erosion of its tax base. If Bridgeport residents are being asked to pay more in taxes to support quality education reforms, they must have some assistance in this effort.
"We cannot kick this can down the road for another two years. Please contact your state representatives and ask them to call for a vote and support HB 5291, a no-risk solution to staving off greater income inequality in Connecticut for working families."
The Hartford Courant's Dan Haar weighs in on the proposal now before the Senate to increase the minimum wage, examining trends and arguments on both sides. Haar concludes:
"Every penny of wages that go to the working poor is returned to the economy quickly. Keeping people below poverty wages costs us more in the long run. Some jobs will be lost, but studies show it's far, far less than opponents fear."
WNPR's Where We Live also featured a lively discussion this morning on the topic, which is available here and will re-air tonight at 7 pm. Callers talked about what it's like to live and pay off student loans on minimum wage.
Click here to find your Senator and call today to tell him or her you support increasing the minimum wage.
Minimum Wage: Call Your Senators
Efforts to increase Connecticut's minimum wage are still alive and need your help.
The House of Representatives has approved a plan to increase minimum wage by 50 cents over two years. The plan is a compromise that does not call for future increases to occur with inflation, but Governor Dannel Malloy has said he will sign it.
Please -Click here to find your Senator and call today to tell him or her you support increasing the minimum wage!
Research and experience shows that increasing the minimum wage helps the economy and does not result in job loss. It's actually an economic stimulus, as people and families have more money to spend in their communities.
The current $8.25 per hour is just not enough for anyone. Now IS the time.
More coverage is at CT News Junkie:Minimum wage Clears House, But Senate Could Pose Hurdle
Forum to Discuss Racial Profiling
You are invited to a Police/Community Information Session to discuss racial profiling, data collection, policy/community relations, and other topics. Sponsors include the African American Affairs Commission, the NAACP, the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
The event is Monday, April 30, from 5:30 - 8 pm.
Click here for more information and details on how to register.
Job Opening at CEDF
The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CEDF) is looking for a Senior State & Local Policy Manager to manage the development of state policy resources and support the Assets & Opportunity Network. The position requires a mix of talents related to policy research, writing, project management, event planning, technical assistance, peer learning facilitation, and oral presentations to a range of audiences. CFED's staff thrives on open collaboration, intellectual curiosity, an energetic, entrepreneurial approach to challenges, and hard work and drive toward fulfilling our mission. Our successful candidate will embody those values.
Click here for details.