Who Warrants a Penalty?
Sewell Chan's piece in the New York Times Tuesday "Number of Food Stamp Users Drops for 2nd Summer in Row" ends with New York's Mayor Bloomberg saying "You have to have a penalty if their is a requirement to work, and this penalty is one that's appropriate." That's our Mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, stating his reason for not seeking a Food Stamp waiver for New Yorkers struggling to feed themselves.
As Hunger Action Network of New York State (HANNYS) notes on their website, "The Federal Nutrition Programs are government funded food programs designed to improve the nutrition, well-being, and food security of low-income Americans. They function as a nutritional safety net for millions of low-income people." Food stamps are an important part of the nutrition programs and here in NY over 50% of the people eligible are not receiving them.
A spokesperson for Human Resources Administration, NYC welfare agency, maintained that economic conditions improved last year for low income New Yorkers.
Single people 18-60 years of age who don't have children can only receive food stamps 3 out of 36 months unless there is a waiver requested. Most big cities have waivers because of unemployment figures. Yet, as reported Tuesday, NYC's unemployment rate rose last month to 5.7%.
Hunger is real just ask any emergency food program (EFP) in this city, state or nation. Food stamps save lives and keep people healthy. Welfare agencies are continually making mistakes, people have their hours miscounted and are sanctioned wrongly and benefits are reduced or terminated erroneously. With the hullabaloo about welfare case decreases you would think we would have seen a dramatic cut in HRA mistakes. Well the students I work with at WRI have not... I guess that is another blog.
Here is the deal. Unemployment is up. Even with a minimum wage job a single person is still not able to make ends meet. Who suffers from the mayor's food stamp policy: the individual who won't get the nutrition he or she needs, the local stores that won't get the extra sales, the Emergency Food Program charity who will have to strain to take one more, and all of us in NY because, yet again, policy makers and blowhards have successfully taken our eye off the ball. The ball is poverty in NYC and reducing access to food stamps for even a small population of people is moving deeper into the problem and further from the solution.
I say we all pay a penalty but not all of us warrant it, Mr. Mayor.