The Widdershins

Archive for October 28th, 2013


The poor in America with no voice

You probably didn’t know this, I know that I didn’t until I saw it on HuffPo.   There’s going to be a reduction in November in folks’ monthly SNAP benefits, aka food stamps.

Pamela Gwynn of Crawfordsville IN found out in a letter sent to her from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.   Pamela probably didn’t know it but she was getting some extras and “freebies” courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the stimulus package that gave SNAP recipients a little bit extra in their allotment.  Pamela’s letter said “The increased benefits provided by this law are expected to expire on November 1, 2013, Most families will see their benefits decrease in November due to the end of the extra benefits provided by the 2009 law.”

Pamela had a series of brain surgeries in the 1990s that left her partially deaf and she receives $731 per month in disability benefits from the Social Security Administration.  Her SNAP benefit will drop from $91 per month to $80 per month.  She said she did some math and that breaks down to about 88 cents a meal.

“Eighty-eight cents won’t buy anything except a cup of ramen noodles,” she said. “They just keep cutting and cutting. Eighty-eight cents — you cannot even buy a can of tuna for 88 cents.”

I know one thing:  you can’t buy a can of Campbell’s Chunky Soup for 88 cents a can.  Normally those run a dollar plus or sometimes over two dollars a can.    Sometimes you can get a sale on them and when I find that, I stock up.  Being basically by myself now, I end up eating a lot of soup and sometimes a sandwich for supper.  It’s just a lot less hassle than trying to cook for one.  I don’t think, however, it’s a choice for Pamela.

This is actually the second cut in food that Pamela has faced.  Back earlier in the spring there was a cut in the Meals on Wheels program which helps with the elderly; Pamela is 63.  That cut was due to the sequester kicking in for programs run by the Administration on Aging.  Pamela said she used to receive a hot lunch each day, but that was stopped.  Said Pamela:

“They took my lunches away because the sequester cut their budget so much they couldn’t afford to pay the driver and they cut back to a once-a-week delivery,” Gwynn said. The local agency on aging offered to bring seven frozen meals once per week, but Gwynn said no thanks. “When you live in an apartment you do not have a freezer large enough to hold what you already have in there and seven meals.”

The Recovery aka stimulus package food stamp increase wasn’t supposed to go away quite so drastically.  There was a plan to leave the increase in place until inflation caught up with the increases, which they thought would be in 2015.  The Dems had a plan for this but as HuffPo said:

congressional Democrats essentially raided the cookie jar, using the future planned spending to offset the cost of priority legislation in 2010. They said at the time that they would put the money back before any decrease could take effect, but they have not kept their promise.

From the other HuffPo piece, from 2012:

In 2010, Democrats took roughly $14 billion worth of funds that had been allocated for future SNAP benefits and used it to help pay for a child nutrition bill and a state assistance bill. The SNAP money had originally been put there by the 2009 stimulus bill, boosting the value of SNAP payments 13.6 percent. The plan had been to allow food price inflation to catch up to the increase sometime after 2015 so there would be no precipitous drop.

When they grabbed the money in 2010, several Democrats, including Sens. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said they’d try to find a way to prevent the cuts from taking effect. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), told the Columbus Dispatch Reid would find a solution and that “we need to talk to the White House on how to deal with this.”

Well those Dems weren’t counting on Debbie Stabenow (D [?]-Mich.).  What Ms. S. did was to target a plan called “Heat and Eat” which worked this way:

“Heat and Eat” states can send nominal utility assistance checks as low as $1 to needy households, which in turn automatically qualifies them for a boosted utility allowance under SNAP. Fewer states would participate in “Heat and Eat” under the farm bill, because it will require them to send utility assistance checks worth at least $10 for the recipient household to get a SNAP boost.

In 2012 during this mess, Kristen Gillibrand of NY “introduced an amendment to strike the Heat and Eat cut from the bill, but 22 Democrats helped a near-unanimous GOP defeat the amendment. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who shepherded the farm bill through the Senate as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, spoke out against the amendment.  Here’s what Stabenow got on the floor of the Senate and said:

“Here’s what’s going on: In a handful of states, they found a way to increase the SNAP benefits for people in their states by sending $1 checks in heating assistance to everyone who gets food assistance,”…”For the small number of states that are doing that, it is undermining the integrity of the program, in my judgment.”

Heh.  As Kathy Bates, playing Madame Lalaurie said in American Horror Story:

Pamela Gwynn says it’s okay though she won’t starve:

“I drink a glass of V-8 juice in the morning,” she said. “I don’t eat breakfast other than that and I don’t eat lunch because I just can’t afford to buy that much. I will eat a cup of soup if I get hungry.”

Here’s a suggestion Widdershins:  If you are fortunate enough to have a few extra dollars and you are at the grocery store when they have a canned goods sale, pick up a few extra and drop them off at your local Second Harvest Food Bank, or other food bank organization you may have locally.  The Republicans, led by Eddie Munster, want to cut SNAP even more, citing the increase in the costs of the program but fail to acknowledge that the Great Recession has not and may not ease for many Americans.  Eighty-eight cents a meal to live on.  I am so embarrassed for my country.

This is an open thread.


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