Monday, October 27, 2008

Food assistance in the new stimulus plan?

The lead article in the most recent Foodlinks America newsletter says that food assistance benefits might be included in a new round of economic stimulus.
Another Stimulus Plan Under Consideration

Congressional leaders are contemplating a new and bigger stimulus package to help pull the U.S. out of its economic doldrums. Regardless of the Presidential vote outcome, Democrats in the House and Senate are expected to return to Washington, D.C. for a post-election, lame-duck session to try to jump-start the sagging economy.

The new economic stimulus plan will likely contain provisions to directly aid low-income Americans. “We have to prop up consumption,” said Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), chair of the House Financial Services Committee. Two likely elements of any bill would be an extension of unemployment insurance benefits and a temporary increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamp benefits. Both actions would channel money to people who would probably spend the money in the slumping retail sector, spend it all, and do so almost immediately.

The $107 billion stimulus measure passed in February 2008 provided tax rebates to most households but did little to influence the economy. The House passed a $60 billion stimulus bill in September that would have boosted SNAP benefits to 105 percent of the Thrifty Food Plan, but it failed in the Senate. A companion Senate measure was proposed that increased SNAP/food stamp benefits 10 percent, added $450 million for the WIC Program, $50 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), $30 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and $60 million for elderly nutrition, but it was never brought up for a vote.

A new package “may have to be larger … in light of the events that have transpired since we had our legislative action on the floor,” stated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Consequently, lawmakers are beginning to discuss a $300 billion deal to help forestall any further economic collapse.

Presidential candidate Barrack Obama has been huddling with congressional Democrats fashioning the plan. “We should extend expiring unemployment benefits to those Americans who’ve lost their jobs and can’t find new ones,” he said. Obama’s policy staff also backs money for road and bridge construction as a relatively easy way to create jobs, address infrastructure needs, and pump funds into the economy. The Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, though not completely rejecting Democratic proposals, prefers making expiring tax cuts permanent and lowering corporate taxes instead.

Although President Bush had previously threatened to veto any new stimulus bill, Administration opposition is softening as the economy continues to sour. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke agreed on October 20, 2008 that, “consideration of a ‘well-targeted’ fiscal package by the Congress at this juncture seems appropriate."
Other articles in the newsletter from TEFAP Alliance cover the new WIC vouchers, school food priorities, and farm-to-school programs.


Anonymous said...

I'm not opposed to increases in food assistance programs, but how much more money do these programs need to meet consumer needs? If we're just raising the benefit per beneficiary, does it need to be earmarked for food spending or would it benefit consumers and the economy to give them cash transfers?

Parke Wilde said...

Many Food Stamp Program participants get modest benefits, due to having some cash income. Your question bears most strongly on whether it is a good idea to increase the maximum benefit, which is received by a substantial fraction of participants (but below 50%). You'd think it crazy, but I wonder if program applicants could be given an "opt out" box to request a check instead of targeted food stamp benefits, signing that they are capable of meeting their family food needs on less than the maximum benefit and need the resources for other household needs.

Anonymous said...

What about the people you do work but their hours got cut and so did their pay. We are also in need of food assistance. DHS just dont understand that people are doing their best to provide but after you pay your bills to keep a roof over your head and lights on there is no money left to buy food. I think that DHS shouldnt go off of your gross but what you actually bring home. Now Congress needs to change the law so that it can happen. Because of that me and my husband which doesnt have a job anymore make 200 in gross more than what is expected for a family of 4.