Families living in rural areas are more likely to rely on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, than those in urban areas, according to new research by the Food Research Action Center. Using data from 2011 through 2015, the study found 16.3 percent of Louisiana families rely on SNAP to make ends meet, but in rural areas of the state, 20.2 percent of households benefit from the program. The data also show that rural areas in Southern states are particularly reliant on SNAP. Ginger Adams Otis with the New York Daily News reports:
In 23% of rural counties, at least 20% of households participate in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, meaning they get monthly food stamps to help them purchase certain types of food. “No community in America is immune to hunger, but rural and small town areas are especially hard hit,” Jim Weill, president of FRAC, said in a press release announcing the findings. The majority of families reliant on SNAP also have at least one working member — and in some cases there are two or more people working in a family that still needs government assistance to get enough food on the table.
Despite SNAP’s critical role in ensuring families have enough food to eat, the program has been put on the chopping block in both President Trump’s budget and the House Budget Resolution, which was approved by the House Budget Committee before the August recess. Dottie Rosenbaum with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains:
The resolution requires the Agriculture Committee to identify, by October 6, at least $10 billion in cuts between 2018 and 2027 to programs under its jurisdiction; these cuts are part of a reconciliation process designed to enact at least $203 billion in ten-year cuts in entitlement programs this year. Although the committee could cut other programs in its jurisdiction to meet this target, the Budget Committee’s documents highlight significant cuts to SNAP and don’t mention any cuts to other Agriculture Committee programs. The Agriculture Committee could adopt the types of SNAP cuts that it’s considered in the past and that are in President Trump’s budget, which would end or reduce benefits to millions of low-income people — including many working families, seniors, and people with disabilities, as well as some of the poorest Americans.
Scrapping sales tax holidays
Facing budget shortfalls and low return on investment, state lawmakers across the country are beginning to rethink the annual sales tax holidays they offer for school supplies, clothes, and appliances. The number of states offering shoppers a temporary break for sales taxes decreased from a peak of 19 in 2010 to just 16 states this year. Elaine S. Povich with The Pew Trusts has more:
Charley Ballard, an economics professor at Michigan State University, said two closely related factors may have helped to “take the shine off” sales tax holidays. Lawmakers are feeling pressure from their constituents to do things that require money, Ballard said. At the same time, the holidays haven’t unleashed the promised burst of economic growth. “This is the kind of policy that makes a great press release, but isn’t necessarily good economic policy,” said Ballard. “Who could be against sales tax holidays so that little Susie can buy her pencils without having to pay sales tax? But like any tax gimmick … you give a tax break to somebody, you are going to lose revenue.”
Detained without probable cause
According to a lawsuit filed Monday, 19th Judicial District Judge Trudy White of Baton Rouge has been improperly requiring defendants to pay for monitoring services from a company run by her campaign manager’s family. East Baton Rouge Parish is also complicit, according to the lawsuit, because local jail officials have wrongfully detained inmates who cannot pay for the court-ordered services. The Advocate’s Jim Mustian has the story:
In many cases, White assigns defendants to undergo pretrial supervision even before they have appeared before her, the lawsuit claims, and “does not ask arrestees any questions before assigning them to RHI, such as whether an arrestee can afford to pay bond or RHI’s initial or monthly fees.” According to the lawsuit, White does not allow arrestees to be heard at probable cause hearings and assigns arrestees to RHI supervision “without conducting an individualized determination of the need for, or the conditions of RHI supervision. RHI, in turn, instructs jail officials not to release pretrial inmates ordered to undergo its services until RHI has received payment.
An Rx for prescription drug costs
The rising cost of prescription drugs is driving up health care spending and premiums for Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurers. While policymakers and voters across the political spectrum agree that something must be done, they don’t necessarily agree about the best path forward. As scholars Karen Van Nuys, Ian Spatz, and Dan Goldman point out, there is a delicate balance between encouraging the development of new life-saving drugs and driving down costs for consumers. But in a piece for the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative on Health Policy, the three experts outline a set of detailed recommendations, including making the drug pricing more transparent:
One recent study suggests that, for every $100 spent on retail drugs in this country, about $41 goes to parties in the distribution chain: insurers, wholesalers, pharmacies, and benefit managers. But the drug pricing system is complex and opaque—brand-name drug prices differ among care settings and among coverage options, and different purchasers pay different amounts for drugs based largely on their ability to influence the selection of drugs from among competing brands within a drug class. The discounts negotiated are important to those paying for drugs but are confidential and it is unclear the degree to which they are passed through to consumers, who care most about their premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
Number of the Day
83,700 – Number of service industry workers in Louisiana who rely on SNAP (food stamps) to make ends meet. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)