SNAP work requirements ignore reality

SNAP work requirements ignore reality

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, ensures that 1 in 4 Louisiana families have a basic human necessity: food. Louisiana congressman Ralph Abraham has been a vocal proponent of attaching onerous conditions to SNAP, conditions that could result in many more families and children going hungry in a state that already struggles with alarming rates of food insecurity. Writing in The Advocate, LBP’s Danny Mintz responds to a recent op-ed by Abraham in the same newspaper.

Number of the Day

-35 - Percentage change in inflation-adjusted wealth for middle-income households between 2007 and 2016, compared to a 11 percent increase for households in the top 10 percent. (Source: The Federal Reserve via The Washington Post)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, ensures that 1 in 4 Louisiana families have a basic human necessity: food. Louisiana congressman Ralph Abraham has been a vocal proponent of attaching onerous conditions to SNAP, conditions that could result in many more families and children going hungry in a state that already struggles with alarming rates of food insecurity. Writing in The Advocate, LBP’s Danny Mintz responds to a recent op-ed by Abraham in the same newspaper:

In The Advocate recently, Abraham wrote in support of a federal farm bill that would impose onerous new work requirements on some Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients. While this may sound good on the surface, it ignores the fact that the vast majority of SNAP recipients who can work already do work. About 85 percent of SNAP recipients who aren’t children, seniors, or prevented from working by disability have a job within a year of enrollment in the program.

The farm bill proposal that Abraham supports would add a layer of red tape to SNAP that could trip up working Louisiana families doing their best to get by:

But the House version of the farm bill would punish workers for circumstances that are often beyond their control. It would require people on SNAP to report their work hours every month to ensure that they meet the 20 per week work hour requirement. That means a fast-food worker whose hours are cut in the last week of the month could lose her food assistance for up to a full year.

Click here to send a letter to your members of Congress asking them to protect and strengthen SNAP in the ongoing farm bill negotiations.

 

Neighborhood determines kids’ success
Common sense tells us that where a child grows up can have a major impact on their life trajectory. But a groundbreaking new collaborative project by the Census Bureau and researchers at Harvard and Brown universities sheds light on exactly where – down to the Census tract level – poor children have the best chance of escaping poverty.  Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui for the New York Times:

The researchers believe much of this variation is driven by the neighborhoods themselves, not by differences in what brings people to live in them. The more years children spend in a good neighborhood, the greater the benefits they receive. And what matters, the researchers find, is a hyper-local setting: the environment within about half a mile of a child’s home.

The specificity of the data creates new opportunities for government officials and philanthropists that are investing in programs aimed at improving outcomes for children and ending intergenerational poverty and:

For any government program or community grant that targets a specific place, this data proposes a better way to pick those places — one based not on neighborhood poverty levels, but on whether we expect children will escape poverty as adults. “These things are now possible to think about in a different way than you thought about them before,” said Greg Russ, the head of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, which is also planning to use the data. “Is opportunity a block away? These are the kind of questions we can ask.”

 

New Orleans moves to fully ban the box
Several years ago, the city of New Orleans approved a living wage ordinance of $10.10 per hour for city employees and “banned the box” that asks about criminal history on applications for city jobs. It’s time to take those provisions a step further, according to local organizers who support ordinances to ban the box for all public and private sector jobs and a minimum wage of $15 per hour for city employees and contractors. The Gambit’s Alex Woodward reports:

LaTanja Silvester, president of Service Employees International Union in New Orleans, said the “box” presents a barrier to people who already “paid their debt to the community.” That cycle disproportionately impacts black men, and a “box” often represents legal discrimination perpetuating systemic racism in and outside the criminal justice system. “This is unfair, this is unorthodox, and I think it’s time we dig deep inside our hearts and policies so we can affect change,” Silvester said. Step Up Louisiana has pushed city officials to introduce the measure, as well as equal pay enforcement and a $15 minimum wage. Co-director Ben Zucker says banning the box is “the first step in trying to make public policy that makes it easier for people coming out of prison,” but he also challenged city officials to consider, “How can we leverage public dollars and the public sector to support folks coming back to find jobs in the most creative ways we can think of?

 

Guaranteed income pilot in Mississippi
Cash assistance going to help low-income families is a rarity in the United States, thanks to the so-called “welfare reforms” of the Reagan and Clinton eras. A new idea is emerging that could reverse that trend, one being piloted by nonprofits with funding from private foundations, called guaranteed basic income. The theory is that with additional income and reduced stressors from being cash-strapped, low-income families will be better able to invest in their own futures and climb out of poverty. The Nation’s Greg Kaufmann describes an initiative that’s providing $1,000 per month to mothers in Jackson:

The new guaranteed-income initiative, the Magnolia Mothers Trust, targets an African-American community with an average annual income of $11,300. The project emerged out of Jackson native Aisha Nyandoro’s work running Springboard to Opportunities, a nonprofit serving residents in federally subsidized affordable-housing communities in Mississippi, Alabama, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. The women Nyandoro spoke with consistently articulated that inadequate access to cash was a serious impediment. Without cash, “There is no breathing room. There is a constant idea that at any moment something could go wrong and knock you back—not just for that moment, but for six months or a year,” said Nyandoro. That led her and her colleagues to ask a simple question: “What if the mothers had the resources they need to breathe and think about the future and plan?”

The initiative’s no-strings-attached provision of cash runs counter to nearly every existing safety net program in the United States today. Nyandoro explains that’s a feature of the program, not a bug:

Importantly, there will be no “interventions” for how the women choose to spend their money. “We need to get to the place where we trust poor people,” Nyandoro said. “They are all mothers who want the best for their kids, and they know what that looks like.”

 

*Note* LBP is collecting stories about the impact of Medicaid and Medicaid expansion on Louisianans’ access to health care services. If you have a personal story to share, or if you work with Medicaid patients who would like to share their story, please reach out to Caroline Gilchrist via email at caroline@labudget.org or by phone at 225-573-9996.

 

Number of the day
-35 – Percentage change in inflation-adjusted wealth for middle-income households between 2007 and 2016, compared to a 11 percent increase for households in the top 10 percent. (Source: The Federal Reserve via The Washington Post)