At the end of last year the JCPA and other anti-hunger advocacy leaders achieved a major victory with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.This bill made major nutritional improvements and expanded access to the school lunch, breakfast, and afterschool meal program. Experts in the anti-hunger community believe this child nutrition bill will be a positive step forward in putting an end to childhood hunger. Still, a major sacrifice was made in the final days of the legislative negotiations: it was agreed that in order to fund the bill, a cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) would be made. The JCPA was deeply disappointed in this cut to SNAP, and we vowed in 2011 to work to restore and strengthen this important anti-poverty, anti-hunger program.
In recent weeks we have learned that securing future funding for SNAP will be an uphill battle. Members of the House of Representatives have made drastic proposals that will considerably cut funding to SNAP and make major structural changes, including potentially block granting the program. These moves could not come at a worst time. In 2009 alone, SNAP lifted 4.6 million Americans above the poverty line, including 2.1 million children and 200,000 seniors. SNAP reduces hunger and food insecurity by providing very low-income people desperately needed, targeted assistance to purchase food through an effective and efficient electronic benefit transfer system. Many economists, including Mark Zandi, believe at times of economic struggle, like our current recession, SNAP provides one of the most reliable “bangs for our buck” and is one of the most stimulative federal programs.
The JCPA’s National Hunger Seder
Last week, Representative Paul Ryan (WI-R), Chair of the House Budget Committee, introduced his 2012 budget proposal. This plan proposes to make $6.2 trillion in cuts over the next ten years, 2/3 of which will come from cuts to programs that serve low-income and vulnerable populations.
Potentially some of the most devastating cuts come in the area of anti-hunger and nutrition programs. Representative Ryan is proposing block granting the SNAP program, a move that would devastate this critical safety net program and take away its ability to respond to changes within the economy. In addition, the Ryan plan proposes to cut $127 billion in funds from SNAP over the next 10 years . The overwhelming majority of SNAP participants are households with children, seniors, and people with disabilities. The faith community has heard anecdotal evidence that many of the people currently on SNAP never thought they would need this assistance, but because of the current recession, their resources are limited and they have been forced to find alternative ways to provide their family with food.
H.R. 1: An Attack on Low-and Moderate-Income Families
In late February, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, a far-reaching piece of legislation that sets out to cut $61 billion in spending from the remainder of the FY2011 budget. The draconian cuts incorporated in this bill include the elimination of such programs as Title X (family planning), the Green Jobs Innovation Fund, Americorp, and Hunger-Free Communities. Even more programs are seriously reduced such as LIHEAP (a program that provides heating and cooling assistance to low-income people), WIA (the Workforce Investment Act, which serves 9 million people in finding jobs and providing them with job training), community health centers, housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) programs, and Headstart. If signed in to law, H.R. 1 would cost America about 700,000 jobs.
Ending Employment Barriers for the Disabled
This past year we celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This landmark piece of civil rights legislation made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. Still, many of the goals set up in the original legislation have yet to be realized and it remains a sad reality that Americans with disabilities face specific social and economic challenges in this country. This is especially true when discussing the related factors of disability and poverty.
According to a September 2009 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “Nearly two-thirds of working-age adults who experience consistent income poverty—more than 36 months of income poverty during a 48-month period—have one or more disabilities. People with disabilities are much more likely to experience various forms of material hardship—including food insecurity, not getting needed medical or dental care, and not being able to pay rent, mortgage, and utility bills—than people without disabilities, even after controlling for income and other characteristics.” The income poverty rate for persons with disabilities is between two and three times the rate for persons without disabilities. The rate might be even higher since many poverty measures do not take into account the added costs of having a disability.
Putting America Back to Work: The Green Way
This week's Confronting Poverty is a joint effort by the JCPA and COEJL
In President Obama’s State of the Union address last month, the President discussed a number of ways he will try to revitalize the U.S. economy and put Americans back to work. He discussed the creation of jobs in the infrastructure, healthcare, and education fields, but focused most on the potential for our economy from innovations and investments in clean energy. President Obama discussed a variety of ways we can green our economy and build up our workforce. But a new workforce requires training so that skilled workers can adapt to newer forms of technology, construction, transportation, and manufacturing.
This week organizations, union leaders, business leaders, and environmentalists from around the country will be gathering in Washington for the Blue Green Alliance’s Good Jobs, Green Jobs Conference. The JCPA and COEJL are co-conveners of this conference. One topic of conversation bound to be discussed is how we put Americans back to work while training them to take part in the new green economy?
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