Good News: it's a SNAP
Another bit of good news, this one relating to Food Stamps.
You know, I'm sure, that the reactionaries and the spineless in Congress came up with an agreement on taking food out of the mouths of poor people - that is, on cutting Food Stamps.
One of the ways they did that was by changing eligibility rules. One of the ways some states established of becoming eligible for Food Stamps was to be qualified to receive heating assistance under the Low Income Heating Assistance Program. Formerly, getting as little as $1 a year in heating assistance was adequate. Obviously, no one ever actually got just $1 a year in heating assistance; the point was, you got it: getting heating assistance was a qualifier for Food Stamps. It's a little more complicated than that in that it really relates to how much the state has to kick into the program for each recipient, but essentially, that was the deal.
(Oh and by the way, the program is now officially called SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but I'm going to continue to call it Food Stamps because, well, because everyone does.)
The new law said it had to be at least $20 a year. In essence, that means that the states who use this standard would have to kick in an extra $19 per recipient (or recipient household) of heating assistance in order for those folks to still qualify for Food Stamps. As a result of that change, about 850,000 low-income families spread across 15 states and the District of Columbia stood to lose an average of $90 of food assistance per month. The reactionaries figured that the states would not be willing to take on the added costs related to fuel assistance in order to keep the Food Stamp benefits flowing to their states. For example, in Massachusetts about 163,000 families receive fuel assistance, so to keep Food Stamp benefits flowing for them, that state would have to come up with some $19 times 163,000, or a touch over $3 million.
Guess what. First Connecticut and New York, then Pennsylvania, Oregon, Montana, Rhode Island, and just this Tuesday, March 17, Massachusetts changed their standards to be in line with the new law, incurring a few million in added contributions to the state portions of the Heating Assistance Program but keeping multiple millions in Food Stamp benefits flowing into their states - and food into the mouths of the hungry. Again in the case of Massachusetts, that $3 million expense will protect $142 million in benefits.
And that really is good news. What would make this new better news would be for the other eight states still affected by the change - California, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin - to take the same steps.
Oh, and there's a side benefit to this good news: getting to watch Speaker of the House John Boner - Sir John of Orange - pop a gasket, declaiming that following the letter of the law to protect the hungry is, quoting, "cheating and fraud" and demanding that it must be stopped.
Because, y'know, just like Paul Rantin' told us, to have the government help you to not be hungry drains your soul.