Making SNAP work better for working people

Making SNAP work better for working people

For many Louisiana workers, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly, Food Stamps) is an important part of the household budget, helping to put good food on the table and freeing up family resources for other needs, such as rent and utility bills. But some families with high expenses lose access to these important benefits if their income rises slightly above the current threshold. A new policy brief by LBP’s director of safety-net policy, Danny Mintz, explains how Louisiana can help these families through a policy that most other states have already adopted: 

This policy change would benefit working people who don’t earn quite enough to meet their needs, but who currently earn too much to qualify for SNAP, and whose high costs for expenses such as housing and childcare leave them with few resources to make ends meet. Enacting this change is straightforward: Gov. John Bel Edwards can direct Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services to adopt this policy administratively and to recode their eligibility systems to put a new gross income threshold into effect. 

Investing in early childhood education
Research has consistently shown that investments in early childhood development – when the brain’s architecture is being built – can have lifelong positive effects on children. Soon, voters in New Orleans may have a chance to decide if they are willing to pay slightly higher property taxes to ensure that low-income families have access to high-quality, affordable early care and education programs. As Jessica Williams reports for the New Orleans Advocate, the City Council plans to put a 5-mill property tax on the April 30 election ballot, which would raise enough money to serve an estimated 1,000 kids aged 0 to 3. 

Advocates say more than 6,500 New Orleans children, largely from low-income families, are priced out of quality day care programs. The average cost for a 2-year-old’s care in New Orleans is about $660 a month, according to a recent Louisiana state survey. That’s $84 higher than the state average and almost $200 higher than what one long-running state subsidy program, the Child Care Assistance Program for Families, is willing to pay.

A boost for health insurance enrollment 
The 2010 federal health care reforms have connected millions of Americans with affordable health insurance, either by expanding Medicaid or by providing subsidized coverage through regulated health care marketplaces. But even though uninsured rates in Louisiana and elsewhere are at historic lows, many people who are eligible for coverage still haven’t signed up. Stateline’s Michael Ollove reports on how Maryland and Massachusetts are trying to address that by letting people sign up for coverage when they file their tax returns.  

“As surprising as it may seem, there are many people out there who don’t know there are insurance options for them,” said Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, a state agency that helps enroll residents. “People are just surviving out there. They don’t know what’s available to them.” Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed Maryland’s first-of-its-kind measure into law in 2019. For the past two years, Maryland income tax forms have included a box that taxpayers can check to indicate they do not have health insurance. With the taxpayer’s permission, the state comptroller submits the household’s income and family size data to the state’s health insurance exchange for possible enrollment in Medicaid or subsidized private insurance.

The political power of bus riders
Reliable, accessible public transit is critical for the thousands of people who rely on bus service to get where they need to go. In Baton Rouge, voters recently renewed a 10-year property tax that finances the city’s bus system. As the Advocate’s Paul Cobler reports, riders themselves likely provided the key support for funding the system that gives them affordable transportation to work, school, the doctor’s office and wherever else they need to go.

As expected, the widest margins in favor of the tax were found in the areas with the ridership was highest. And support was lowest in more affluent places like South Baton Rouge, where fewer people take the bus. People living in areas with a lower average income typically rely on public transportation at higher rates because they are less likely to own cars. System officials say more than 90% of their riders have no other transportation option.

Number of the Day
Annual amount that a proposed property tax in New Orleans would bring in for early childhood education (Source: | The Advocate)