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SNAP changes would hurt the most vulnerable

Posted on February 11, 2019

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low-income people and families put food on the table during hard times, when work is hard to find or family circumstances prevent someone from finding or holding a job. A change to the program’s rules proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration would make it harder for states to get waivers that allow people in hard-hit areas to avoid a harsh three-month time limit on receiving benefits. LBP’s anti-hunger policy advocate, Danny Mintz, has more:

Even though many Louisianans who would be affected by the SNAP time limit do work, many work in jobs with unsteady hours, have unstable living situations, deal with unreliable transportation, or face undiagnosed medical problems that affect their ability to get or keep a job. The proposal, which would reduce the state’s flexibility in determining areas of high unemployment, would expose struggling Louisianans to harsh time limits on food assistance, right when they need help the most—while they are unemployed—even if they are searching for work. Last year, more than 78,000 childless adults between 18 and 49 in Louisiana would have potentially faced severe restrictions on their access to food assistance if the proposed policy were in effect.

Former federal budget director Peter R. Orszag, writing in Bloomberg View, explains why food assistance is much more than just a good way to relieve short-term hunger. It represents a long-term investment in families and children:

The economists focus on people born between 1956 and 1981, who were young children when the program was expanding, and who grew up in families with a parent with less than a high school education. They find that access to the program as a young child significantly improved economic outcomes and health status as an adult. In particular, food stamp access as a child was associated with much lower risk of metabolic syndrome as an adult and, especially for women, higher levels of educational attainment and income along with lower participation on means-tested benefit programs. For example, food stamp access during childhood is linked to a 5 percentage point reduction in heart disease and an 18 percentage point increase in high school completion rates, compared to those who lacked access.

 

A tax break without accountability
Tucked into the fine print of the 2017 federal tax-cut law is a well-intended provision designed to spur investment and economic development in low-income areas. The law created hundreds of Opportunity Zones around Louisiana, where investors can save millions of dollars on future taxes. But as Sam Karlin details in The Advocate, the process of selecting these tax-preferred zones spurred a flurry of lobbying by local elected officials, and there are serious questions about whether the program will actually help the poor.

The program is expected to cost the federal government $1.6 billion in the first decade, but most of the tax breaks are expected in the years after that, meaning the cost to the government could rise. Another potential hiccup, according to tax-law analyst Samantha Jacoby of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, is that the program does not include any requirements that local residents benefit from the investments. … “While the new tax break enables investors to accumulate more wealth, it includes no requirements to ensure that local residents benefit,” said Chuck Marr, a colleague of Jacoby at the CBPP, where he focuses on federal tax policy.

The conservative Tax Foundation doesn’t think much of the idea either.

 

Day Care for All
It’s almost impossible to run for president as a Democrat these days without advocating for universal health care, free or reduced college tuition and a living wage of at least $15 per hour. While those things are undoubtedly important to families, The Nation’s Kathy Pollitt writes in The New York Times that one key issue is missing: early childhood education.

In fact, I would put it ahead of free public college: It would help more people and do more to change society for the better. Only about a third of Americans age 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, after all (although more would surely try if they could afford it). But by the time American women are 40 to 44, 86 percent of them are mothers, and unless they are affluent — or have a retired but still energetic grandma who’s willing to pitch in full time when the kids are little — the child care crisis hits families hard. … The child care crisis has a huge effect on women’s employment. It keeps women at home who need and want to work. When women miss work because jerry-built arrangements fall apart, they can be fired — it’s perfectly legal. Lack of stable, affordable child care is one of the reasons women’s work force participation has stalled despite women’s increased education and the growth of fields where many women work, such as health care.

 

The rural financial meltdown
Many of Louisiana’s rural communities are rapidly losing population, and the tax revenue and productivity that goes with it. That’s making it increasingly difficult for some small towns to provide basic services such as clean drinking water, which in turn puts even more pressure on people to leave. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard is the only statewide reporter who’s been tracking this:

Far more Louisiana residents are moving to the big cities and leaving the small towns with too many bills that those remaining can no longer afford. Where 35 years ago about 31 percent of the state’s population lived in small towns, by 2017 only 16 percent did. And the U.S. Census Bureau report showed Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette metro areas still growing. It’s a situation that fast is becoming the burden of all Louisiana taxpayers. … There are many reasons for the financial problems, but one of the biggest is town leaders trying to pay for utilities, law enforcement and other local services in communities that now have substantially fewer people and therefore far less revenues.

The Legislative Auditor reports that 15 communities are at high financial risk, but Ballard counts 60 towns and cities that are “on the brink.”

 

Number of the Day
115,395 – Number of Hispanic people living in the New Orleans metro area as of July 2017 – 9 percent of the total population. That’s nearly double from the 58,545 living there in 2000. (Source: The Data Center)

 

 

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