Looming SNAP Cuts Will Harm both Families and Local Economies

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 12:45 PM by

Nearly 900,000 people in Wisconsin will see a cut in their food assistance benefits starting Friday, making it harder for many Wisconsin families to put food on the table, according to a new Wisconsin Budget Project report.

The across-the-board cuts will reduce food assistance by $89 million in this fiscal year, when a boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), is set to expire.

Wisconsin children will be especially hard hit by the cut, as 1 out of 3 Wisconsin children received SNAP benefits last year. In some areas of the state, such as Milwaukee and rural counties in northern Wisconsin, SNAP is such an important support for families that more than half the children receive assistance over the course of the year.

In addition to helping feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the fastest, most effective ways to stimulate a struggling economy. Read more

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The Effects of the Federal Government Shutdown for Wisconsin Children and Families

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 5:13 PM by

A Significant Economic Hit to the National Economy and a Gradually Expanding Erosion of Key Programs

Economists expect the federal government shutdown to have significant adverse consequences for the national economy.   This LA Times article reports that some project that even just a two-week partial shutdown will cause a reduction of 0.3 to 0.4 of a percentage point from national economic growth in the fourth quarter.   That’s particularly a problem when the economic recovery is already so sluggish that job growth has been barely keeping ahead of population growth.  

I worry about those economic consequences, but I am also very concerned about the effects of the shutdown on children and families in our state – especially for low-income and vulnerable families.  Fortunately, most federally funded programs for those families will continue at least through October, but the consequences could be very serious for vulnerable families if the shutdown lasts well into the fall. Read more

New Census Figures Confirm Wide Income Gap

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 5:30 PM by

Poverty Remains High, Median Income Remains Low, and Health Insurance Coverage Improves Modestly

Data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau reinforce the recent findings by economists that there is a very wide gap between the rich and the poor.  The new Census figures for 2012 from the Current Population Survey (CPS) show that the painfully slow economic recovery has yet to help a large segment of Americans.    Poverty remained high last year, at 15% nationally, and median income remained low — 8.3% below the 2007 level, before the Great Recession began.     

In a New York Times blog post this afternoon, a graph prepared by Jared Bernstein uses the 2012 Census Bureau data to illustrate the diverging trend lines since 1967 in the household income of low, middle and upper income Americans.  And as Bernstein notes, the divergence would be much wider if the Census Bureau didn’t exclude capital gains income from its data.  Read more

One in Nine Wisconsin Households Face Food Insecurity

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 3:06 PM by

One in nine households in Wisconsin has difficulty providing food for all their members due to a lack of resources, according to a new report from the U.S Department of Agriculture. That rate is sharply up from a decade ago, when one in 12 Wisconsin households faced food insecurity.

The chart below shows the percentage of Wisconsin households with food insecurity at different points over the last decade: 8.1% in 2000-02, 11.4% in 2007-09, and 11.2% in 2010-12.

About one in 20 Wisconsin households face very low food security, a more severe form of food insecurity that means that the food intake of household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were reduced due to limited resources.

Nationally, about one in seven households struggled with food insecurity in 2012, including one out of five households with children.

One of the most effective tools we have to combat food insecurity is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps. Read more

Categories: Blog, ECONOMIC SECURITY, food stamps | Comments Off

861,000 Wisconsinites Will See Cuts to Food Assistance This Fall

Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 1:05 PM by

More than 800,000 people in Wisconsin will see a cut in their food assistance benefits this fall, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is set to expire, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) discussed in a new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

All of the more than 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who receive SNAP, (also known as FoodShare in Wisconsin) will see their food assistance reduced, when a modest boost in benefits to SNAP recipients that policymakers included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to strengthen the economy and ease hardship expires on October 31. For a family of three, that cut will mean a reduction of $29 a month— $319 for the remaining 11 months of the fiscal year. This is a serious loss for families whose benefits, after this cut, will average less than $1.40 per person per meal. Read more

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Report Finds that Recovery Act Effectively Combated Poverty

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 10:08 PM by

IRP Research Shows Antipoverty Programs Reduced Unofficial Poverty Rate in Wisconsin in 2010 

A report released Wednesday by the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at UW Madison examines the effects of the antipoverty programs on the poverty rate in Wisconsin.  Not surprisingly, the official measure of poverty shows an increase in Wisconsin between 2009 and 2010.   However, the IRP’s alternative gauge of poverty (the “Wisconsin Poverty Measure” or WPM) showed a decrease in the poverty from 11.1% to 10.3%.

Whereas the official poverty measure is based just on pre-tax cash income, the WPM uses a broader lens that also examines taxes, tax credits, and “near cash” income such as food stamps. Last year the IRP concluded that from 2008 to 2009 the alternative poverty measure was flat in Wisconsin, because the drop in families’ income was offset by tax credits and food assistance benefits, which were enhanced that year by the federal Recovery Act. Read more

The Hunger Games Come to Wisconsin

Monday, April 2, 2012 at 6:56 PM by

Katniss. Gale. Peeta. Panem. If these names mean nothing to you, you’ve been able to avoid the hype of The Hunger Games, now showing in movie theaters. Many Wisconsin families are living out their own version of the Hunger Games. One in four Wisconsin children live in families that depend on food stamps to make ends meet, and the number of Wisconsin residents receiving food stamp assistance has more than doubled in the last four years.

The federal budget proposed by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) would make deep cuts to food stamp spending, while handing out enormous tax cuts to the best-off.

For more information about Wisconsin’s own version of the Hunger Games, read the newest blog post by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Tamarine Cornelius Read more

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As Recovery Act Expires, More Could Slide Into Poverty

Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 8:51 PM by

Did the Recovery Act reduce the number of people living in poverty during the recession? That’s a natural question to ask, but unfortunately, traditional measures of poverty aren’t of much use in providing an answer. That’s because the official poverty measure doesn’t take into account tax credits, food stamps, or other important forms of Recovery Act assistance that gave a boost to families struggling to lift themselves out of poverty.

Researchers in Wisconsin have pioneered an alternative measure, called the Wisconsin Poverty Measure, which takes a broader look at a family’s resources and paints a more complete picture of a family’s poverty status. The Wisconsin Poverty Measure – which we’ve highlighted in our blog here and here has garnered national attention, most recently in a August 8 post by Brookings called “Better Data, Better Outcomes: How Public Policy is Helping Poor Children.”

Using the Wisconsin Poverty Measure, researchers have shown that there was no increase in child poverty between 2008 and 2009. Read more

Categories: Blog, EITC, food stamps, Recovery Act | Comments Off

The Problem(s) with Block Grants

Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 12:11 AM by

As federal lawmakers grapple with options for reducing the federal deficit, some have suggested that the welfare reform block grants, known as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), serve as a model for how to reshape the funding for other public benefits, such as Medicaid and food stamps. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and others contend that the “success” of welfare reform and the TANF block grants illustrates how the federal government can save money by giving states more flexibility, in exchange for reduced funding and an end to the current entitlement nature of these programs.

A July 14 paper by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) refutes that argument by examining the role TANF played in the recent recession, and showing that the block grant did not respond effectively to the sharp economic downturn. This blog post summarizes their findings and supplements them with our own observations about recent TANF challenges in Wisconsin.  Read more
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Alternative Measure of Poverty Shows Value of Recovery Act

Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 10:10 PM by

A new report by University of Wisconsin researchers shows that the Recovery Act helped shelter state residents from the worst effects of the recession.

By official measures, poverty in Wisconsin rose from 10.2 percent in 2008 to 12.4 percent in 2009, according to the report. But the official measure of poverty takes only cash income into account. This means that non-cash income like tax credits or food stamps – both of which were significantly expanded by the Recovery Act and both of which can make a big difference to a family’s bottom line – are not considered when determining poverty status.

The Institute for Research on Poverty has developed an alternative measure of poverty. Here’s a description of their measure, fittingly called the Wisconsin Poverty Measure:

“[The Wisconsin Poverty Measure] takes a broad view of resources, incorporating not only pre-tax cash income, but also the estimated value of other federal and state resources to offset need.

Read more

Categories: Blog, EITC, food stamps, Recovery Act | Comments Off