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Posts Tagged ‘food stamps’

My intellectual love affair with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’s Off the Charts Blog continues with their work on SNAP (formerly Food Stamps).  I always find myself trying to correct misconceptions about SNAP and how it impacts the lives of low-income Americans.  I may start memorizing the urls for these CBPP fact sheets.  It would save me so much time.

The first  Policy Basics: Introduction to SNAP provides an overview of what SNAP is, who is eligible for SNAP, program costs, special features, effectiveness and efficiency, the application process, and the amount of money for which families are eligible.  And as always the fact sheet makes great use of visuals like this one:

 The second (more…)

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SNAP Tools

To continue with last week’s theme of providing tools to assist low-income families, this week’s post will focus on the SNAP Pre-Screening Tool and the SNAP Retail Locator.  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the new name for the program that is commonly referred to as food stamps.  The eligibility standards for SNAP can be somewhat confusing, but the SNAP Pre-Screening Tool helps families determine if they might be eligible for assistance.  The tool asks a series of questions about the individual or family seeking assistance then makes a preliminary determination.  The pre-screening tool does not make a final decision of eligibility, but it is a useful tool for caseworkers or individuals seeking assistance.  To see a list of SNAP eligibility requirements click here

Families who utilize food stamps can also have difficulty locating retailers who accept SNAP, especially  if the family is new to an area.  The SNAP Retail Locator allows families to search for nearby retailers who will accept SNAP.  The search can be performed using a specific address, city and state, or zip code.  The search also allows the user to select between the nearest 10, 25, or 50 retailers.  the search  results are plotted on an interactive map and in list form near the bottom of the page.  The results includes the retailers name and address.  The tool can be used by individuals and families from their home, but it could also be useful to provide a list of nearby retailers at the time the assistance is awarded.  To find your local SNAP office click here.

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Last week I linked to an OK Policy post about “cliff effects” that reduce or disqualify people for benefits whenever they increase their earnings, sometimes leaving people even farther behind even as they get better jobs or benefits.

The Associated Press reports that ARRA, the stimulus legislation, is causing some cliff effects of its own, and giving the unemployed a little bit of boost and a little bit of bust:

Under the economic recovery plan, laid-off workers have seen a $25 weekly bump in their unemployment checks as part of a broad expansion of benefits for the poor. But the law did not raise the income cap for food stamp eligibility, so the extra money has pushed some people over the limit.

One unemployed man in Georgia was pushed over the limit by the bump, causing him to miss out on $300/month in food stamps assistance.

Since policymakers are becoming increasingly aware of the problems of cliff effects, they wouldn’t intentionally cause such dramatic consequences in entirely new, emergency relief programs, right? Wrong:

Lawmakers crafting the stimulus knew this would become a problem, said Stacy Dean, director of food assistance policy at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. They could have headed it off by raising the income tax or declaring that the $25 stimulus checks would not affect food stamp eligibility. Both were expensive options that could have forced states to reprogram their computer systems.

But more importantly, hashing out those details would have taken time.

“People were aware of this but, as you recall, the stimulus was moving along and then it was passed in about a day,” Dean said. “There was not a lot of policy discussion on this.”

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A few days ago I mentioned that Oklahoma was holding somewhat steady in the face of the economic downturn, with several indicators worsening but not horrible. I meant to write that it felt like being in the calm before the storm, to make it clear that I wasn’t arguing that Oklahoma would escape the recession.

So just to further reinforce the point:

The highest number of people receiving food stamps in one month came in December 2005 with 443,045 people. Last month, 442,299 Oklahomans were given food stamps.

“That is the second-highest total in history,” Johnson said. “They are approaching the record. If things continue in the economy the way they are going, more than likely, that record will be broken.” (Tulsa World)

So food stamps receipt is about to break records (although this isn’t adjusted for population growth). The economic challenges are real, even in Tulsa.

The article, published Sunday, is about a Tulsa woman who lost her job just as she was beginning to get her financial affairs in order, including taking advantage of CAP’s financial services offerings.

At Tulsa Initiative, we’ve been thinking about ways we can help move families into economic self-sufficiency, even through the financial crises people face along the way. The challenge for all of us in the social service sector in Tulsa is how to keep making progress through these difficult times.


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Ezra Klein remarks that it seems wild to him that 1 in 9 Americans receive food stamps. “Not only are 31.5 million Americans eligible for food stamps. But 31.5 million are facing such grueling economic stress that they were willing to enroll in the food stamp program.”

At the same time, he points out, the benefit is falling further behind a family’s nutritional needs. Klein posts this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which I hadn’t seen before, that shows the difference between the maximum food stamp benefit and the cost of a “minimally adequate diet” for a family of fourt (as defined by the USDA):

And while people from the left and the right are criticizing the President-elect’s recovery plan, here’s a solution: according to Mood’ys Economy.com, food stamp spending generates $1.73 for every $1 in government spending, making it the most effective stimulus agent studied.

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The Nudge blog digs up a story from the Washington Post about reforming the food stamps program to better promote nutrition. Many anti-hunger advocates have opposed placing restrictions on the use of food stamps based on nutritional content, arguing that it’s too difficult to classify so many foods and that many food stamps recipients have limited access to fresh or nutritious foods.

The Wholesome Wave Foundation found an innovative solution: they are “nudging” people toward fresh foods and vegetables by doubling the value of food stamps when used at farmers markets in California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut:

The Wholesome Wave matching grants were an instant hit at the City Heights market in San Diego. On the first day that matching funds became available, sales using government-issued electronic benefit cards soared by more than 200 percent. In subsequent weeks, the line to receive matching vouchers formed at 7:30 a.m., and the available funds were exhausted by 9:30 a.m., just 30 minutes after the market opened.

“We’re not taking away your benefits because you spend them on Twinkies,” said Michel Nischan, a Connecticut chef and president of Wholesome Wave. “But if you decide you want to spend it on fresh tomatoes, you’ll get double your money.”

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