The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) helps more than 900,000 Louisianans keep food on the table and frees up resources for families to meet other basic needs, such as paying the rent and keeping the lights on. But that’s not all the program offers: SNAP Employment and Training funds support programs that help SNAP recipients connect with work. Studies show that while work requirements attached to public benefits drive some families into deep poverty, voluntary employment and training programs can help economically disadvantaged people. Now, The Advocate reports, a partnership between the Department of Children and Family Services, the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, and other nonprofit agencies is helping more SNAP recipients receive intensive job training and to cover the costs of enrollment:
As part of the arrangement, the United Way will facilitate the reimbursement of eligible SNAP E&T expenses for nonprofits that provide job search assistance, training, education and vocational training services for SNAP recipients in Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes. Under the SNAP E&T program, providers are eligible for federal reimbursement for SNAP-recipient expenses related to transportation, dependent care and supportive services, such as clothing, uniforms, equipment, emergency temporary housing assistance, books, supplies and tools. As one example, Liberty’s Kitchen, a SNAP E&T provider in New Orleans, used its program reimbursement to build a computer lab, which allowed it to expand its services to SNAP recipients. Liberty’s Kitchen trained 55 SNAP recipients between October 2017 and September 2018, according to United Way.
These programs are an excellent example of meaningful work supports, and stand in stark contrast to ill-considered and harmful work requirements like those in the House version of the Farm Bill, that separate hungry families from food assistance while doing little to boost employment.
Bad state and local tax policies hold back communities of color
Policies such as high sales taxes, property tax limits and supermajority requirements to raise state taxes reduce the funding available for core government programs that serve low-income communities and, particularly, people of color. A new report by Michael Leachman, Michael Mitchell, Nicholas Johnson, and Erica Williams at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities adds to the growing body of evidence that these programs not only contribute to racial disparities, but that they were rooted in racial discrimination from their inception. Policies that seem race-neutral on the surface can actually serve as barriers that hold back people and communities of color.
States and local governments account for nearly half of all domestic public-sector spending, and most of the funding for education and certain other investments important for economic growth. As such, how states and localities raise and spend revenue, including what services they finance, has major implications for racial and ethnic equity. Yet, while in recent decades people of color have made progress in many areas, state and local fiscal policies too often have not been part of this progress and instead have extended or cemented racial disparities in power and wealth. Discriminatory public policies and racially prejudiced public and private actions of the past contributed to a historical context in which people of color were systematically held back. For much of our nation’s history, people of color had little to no power in state legislatures, and white lawmakers could set policies that sustained white dominance, even in states where people of color were a significant share or even a majority of the population. In that sort of environment, state and local tax policies often deepened the profound challenges that people of color faced, even when those tax policies were not explicitly race-based.
Fixing state and local tax policy won’t solve the problem of racial inequity. But because bad policy continues to drive inequality, fixing tax policy on the state and local level must be a part of our solution.
Incentives to lure businesses to relocate are a poor deal
As the Amazon HQ2 competition underlined, state and local governments are keen to offer tax breaks and other incentives to tempt businesses to relocate. A new analysis by the Urban Institute’s Brett Theodos, Aravind Boddupalli and Megan Randall, however, points out that this is nearly always a bad bet:
We know that state and local governments spend billions of dollars on general business recruitment subsidy programs and on targeted incentives to large corporations. And we know that regardless of how the economic development incentives are designed, the evidence on their efficacy of job generation and benefits to residents is not always favorable. Overall, our findings challenge the practice of state and local governments providing generous economic development incentives to boost economic activity or retain and attract new businesses.
One particular finding from the study stands out: because business relocation is a two-way street, net business migration generally has no effect on the total number of jobs in an area.
Changes in the number of jobs in a county or metropolitan area because of net migration were essentially zero when viewed as a share of all jobs in that area. Net job creation (from establishment births minus deaths) and net job growth (from establishment expansions minus contractions) drove the largest employment changes. For most individual counties, in-migration and out-migration were roughly on par with each other, though there were exceptions. Therefore, efforts to win over businesses with tax exemptions and subsidies may not be fiscally fruitful for overall job generation for regional economies.
Business tax giveaways do, however, draw resources from other key business attractors: government programs that boost the quality of life, education level and safety of a given area. Louisiana’s leaders should think hard about whether it’s in the state’s best interest to subsidize corporations through programs like the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, which sap resources that could be used to address local needs.
(Full disclosure: LBP Director Jan Moller is a member of the Board of Commerce & Industry, which oversees ITEP.)
“Public Charge” proposal is already taking food off of immigrants’ tables
A proposed change to federal immigration policy unveiled last month is already prompting many legal immigrants to withdraw from public benefit programs that keep their families healthy and nourished. President Donald Trump’s change to the “public charge” rule will make it harder for poor immigrants who waited in line for a chance at citizenship to make the United States their permanent home. H. Claire Brown at the New Food Economy reports on a new study showing how bad this proposal has been for immigrant families facing obstacles to prosperity:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last month published rules that say food stamp use will be a “heavily” weighted factor when considering applications for green cards. That last rule hasn’t even gone into effect yet. But new research shows it might not matter. Preliminary data from a survey of more than 35,000 mothers of young children indicate a nearly 10 percent drop in SNAP enrollment among immigrant families who are eligible. The findings, presented Monday at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting, found that immigrant mothers’ participation in SNAP steadily increased from 2007 to 2017. Then, in the first half of 2018, the numbers suddenly dropped—by a lot. In 2017, 43 percent of eligible families who had been in the country for less than five years were participating in the program. By mid-2018, that figure had plummeted to 34.8 percent. Allison Bovell-Ammon, lead researcher for the study and deputy director of policy strategy at Boston Medical Center’s Children’s HealthWatch, emphasized that SNAP eligibility rules didn’t change between 2017 and 2018, so the drop is likely due to families’ fear of potential repercussions for receiving food aid. “These findings demonstrate that rhetoric and the threat of policy changes, even before changes are enacted, may be causing families to forego nutrition assistance,” she said in a press release.
You can submit comments opposing the public charge proposal at www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org.
Editor’s Note: The Daily Dime is taking a break for the Thanksgiving holiday and a professional development conference. We will return Dec. 3.
Number of the Day:
8,462 – Number of Arkansans who lost health coverage due to the state’s new work reporting requirements, as of October. While these requirements have kicked thousands off the healthcare rolls, they have connected fewer than 1 percent of those individuals with new work activities. (Source: Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families)