Issue #4, January 27, 2015

SNAP and Emergency Food Providers

While food demand grows, pantries see fewer donations – Grand Junction Sentinel, January 16, 2015
Last year 8,099 Mesa County, Colorado families received SNAP benefits, nearly double the 4,647 households that received benefits in 2009. Now, about 100 more people are signing up for the assistance each month as compared to five years ago. SNAP benefit cuts have sent more people seeking food assistance from increasingly struggling charities in the county. Jackie Feaster, director of the food pantry at Clifton Christian Church, said that although need is increasing, donations have decreased.

Food stamps, indigent care show Idaho still under stress – KTVB, January 19, 2015
Although Idaho currently has a low unemployment rate and an improving economy, public assistance levels continue to rise. More than 332,000 state residents received some sort of federal or state aid, and the number of Idaho families making a living wage decreased over the last six years – of the state’s 1.5 million residents, only a third earn enough money for a family of four.

State of the Union and Child Hunger

Do America’s Hungry Children Matter? –, January 21, 2015
There were 12.4 million children in food insecure homes in 2008, now there are 15.8 million food insecure children. While the president’s State of the Union proposals – increasing the child tax credit, increasing wages and paid family leave – are excellent, “it is absolutely appalling that he must encourage Congress to show children that they matter,” writes Mariana Chilton, found of Witnesses to Hunger and director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, in this op-ed.

We’re Going to Hell and Still Can’t do Math – Minimum Wage, Poverty Wage and Living Wage in Oregon – Blue Oregon, January 2015
Oregon’s minimum wage was $9.25 an hour (before it went up by 15 cents at the beginning of 2015) – or $18,500 a year for a family of four, while the Federal poverty level for that family is $23,850. Not only do families making minimum wage not make enough money for rent, they also don’t make enough to pay for sufficient food, and must rely on safety net programs to get by. Low wage work in Oregon actually costs the state money – through food aid, housing subsidies and Medicaid.

Pilot School Dinner Program

Schools Are Expanding Their Free Lunch Programs To Include Dinner, Too –, January 16, 2015
A pilot program, established through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act of 2010, enables students in 13 states and D.C. to receive dinner and an after-school snack. More than one million students are benefitting from the program, and low-income children should benefit most from the additional meals, as they may not have access to healthy food beyond that which they can get through school-based meals. “Children need to get fed when they’re at after-school programs in the evening,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions. “It’s not only an investment in the health of the child but it’s a way for us to make sure that he or she can take full advantage of the valuable enrichment activities.”

State of the Union and Low-Income Americans

Obama Would End Death Tax Break for Wealthy to Fund Middle Class Tax Breaks, Programs – Roll Call, January 17, 2015
President Obama is asking Congress to increase the Earned Income Tax Credits for people without children, create a $500 credit for families with two income-earners, and triple the child care tax credit (for up to $3,000 per child under five). Millions would benefit from these credits, funded through tax changes, including eliminating tax breaks for wealthy heirs. Details of the plans will likely appear in the Office of Management and Budget’s budget request at the beginning of February.

Voters want paid leave, paid sick days, poll shows. Obama too. Will Congress oblige? – The Washington Post, January 21,2015
Before the president’s State of the Union address, the Make it Work campaign released a poll of likely 2016 voters which found that Democratic, Independent and Republicans voters are overwhelmingly in favor of paid sick days, equal pay for equal work, and affordable child care. The government has a responsibility to ensure that employers provide these policies, according to 73 percent of those surveyed. Workplace rules ensuring equal pay, paid time off to care for family members, and affordable child care “is good for our nation” said 94 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of Independents and 65 percent of Republicans.

The stark disparities of paid leave: The rich get to heal. The poor get fired. – The Washington Post, January 16, 2015
The White House notes that 43 million Americans get no paid sick leave, and according to The Washington Post, 88 percent of private sector managers and financial workers have paid sick leave, while less than half of service workers (40 percent) and construction workers (38 percent) receive the benefit. Workers without sick leave are afraid they’ll be fired from their jobs if they stay home due to illness. The White House is urging Congress to use more than two billion in new funds to enable states to create family and medical leave programs.

Hospitals, Hunger and the Poor

Senator “Astounded” That Nonprofit Hospitals Sue Poorest Patients – NPR, January 22, 2015
Nonprofit hospitals in six states are suing hundreds of patients, according to a report by NPR and ProPublica, and one hospital and its debt collection arm is docking paychecks of thousands of patients a year. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that these hospitals could be breaking the law by their actions. Nonprofit hospitals don’t pay federal income tax or local property tax, notes Grassley, and must justify their tax-exempt status by “taking care of people who couldn’t provide for their own health care.”

When the food runs out – Portland Tribune, January 15, 2015
Families bringing children in for annual checkups at Providence Milwaukie Hospital in Portland, Oregon, are now being asked if they are experiencing food insecurity, part of a new statewide initiative titled “Screen and Intervene.” Families experiencing food insecurity are then scheduled for a meeting with an outreach specialist which can help direct them to assistance. Individual clinics in the state participating in the initiative establish their own protocols for helping struggling families.

Poverty and the 2016 Election

Faith leaders call for focus on poverty in 2016 election – Catholic Courier, January 16, 2015
More than 100 Christian faith leaders, under the umbrella organization “Circle of Protection,” are inviting 2016 presidential candidates to submit a three-minute video which outlines their poverty priorities if elected to the White House. “The state of the union is not good if you’re poor,” said Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, in a news conference announcing the challenge. “It’s not good if you’re a low-income family.” News conference participants noted that churches and charities alone cannot assist the 45.3 million poor Americans.

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