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Republicans In The NH Senate Stick It To Low Income Workers Twice In One Day

Yesterday in a very busy day in the NH State Senate, Republicans voted on two bills that specifically effect low income families in New Hampshire.  They voted on an increase in the minimum wage and a bill to kick thousands off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also referred to as food stamps.

The Senate rejected the minimum wage increase that would have raised the minimum wage to $12 over the next few years, right down party lines.  The bill would have raised the wages of over 100,000 people in the Granite State.  

“While 29 states and D.C. have increased their minimum wage in the last 4 years, Senate Republicans have voted to kill a New Hampshire increase for the fourth time, making us the only New England state that maintains a $7.25 hourly wage. I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues continue to turn their backs on working people. This is not only an economic issue, but a moral issue,” said Senator Donna Soucy (D-Manchester), Deputy Democratic Leader and sponsor of SB 83.

“This Republican logic that you can limit access to food assistance programs like SNAP while also voting to maintain a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour that is keeping working people in poverty fails to pass muster. People working full-time in New Hampshire should be able to earn enough to support themselves and their families.”

“Paying decent wages just makes good economic sense,” added Senator Soucy. “Volumes of research have shown that well-paid workers are better employees, better customers and are more likely to spend their dollars on necessities. The more workers feel financially secure in our state, the stronger and more robust our economy and the greater our ability to attract and retain skilled workers. While I’m disappointed our Republican colleagues continue to fail our workers, Senate Democrats will continue to push for an increase in our minimum wage and will continue fighting to expand opportunity for all.”

It is important to remember that some of the Republican senators are business owners that would be directly effected by an increase in the minimum wage.

In his opposition to raising the minimum wage last year, Senator  Andy Sanborn stated that raising the minimum wage is a “war on employers” but fails to mention that his vote against an increase is all about protecting his own self interest.

The Chairman of the NH Democratic Party, Ray Buckley, blasted the NH GOP for failing workers yet again.

“For four years, Governor Maggie Hassan worked to make our state number one in the nation for economic opportunity, with the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Building on that progress means making sure everyone with a job can provide for themselves and their family. For the second time in two weeks, Republicans have denied New Hampshire workers a raise by voting down a minimum wage.

By default, New Hampshire is tied for last in the country when it comes to paying its workers. The Granite State also has by far the lowest minimum wage in New England and that’s a legacy New Hampshire Republicans should be ashamed of. If Governor Sununu is truly committed to strengthening our economy and expanding opportunity, he should first make sure the people who live here are making enough to get by.”

“Raising the minimum wage to $12 per hour would come at the expense of entry level jobs,” said Senator Dan Innis as he argued against the increase.  Obviously Innis is mis-informed.  Study after study continues to show real life examples of how raising the minimum wage spurs economic growth, creating new jobs, and increases spending in the local community.

In January, Maine’s newly increased minimum wage went into effect and the results show what most economist routinely say, it will help create jobs.

“Average hourly earnings for private-sector Maine workers increased to $22.70 an hour and total employment increased to an all-time high, with a gain of more than 4,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs from December….Significant employment gains were seen among Maine’s restaurants and hotels, with the accommodation and food service sector gaining 700 jobs,” reported the Maine Beacon.

Then just to show how much Republicans care about low income workers they also voted to pass SB 7, a bill to change the eligibility of low income families to receive SNAP benefits.  

Senator Martha Fuller Clark was very disappointed in this partisan attack on low income families. 

“In the same day that we are discussing increased tax breaks for businesses and voting against the long overdue increase to the state’s minimum wage, Senate Republicans are passing legislation that prevents thousands of food insecure Granite Staters from accessing the SNAP benefits they so desperately need. I have to wonder – why are my Republican colleagues making it so hard for working families to succeed in New Hampshire?”

Senate Bill 7 restricts the Department of Health and Human Services from requesting or renewing a waiver of the federal work requirements for food stamp eligibility without legislative approval and requires that the department use the federal resource limits for food stamp eligibility for anyone denied a waiver. Food service providers, including the New Hampshire Food Bank, remain concerned that this legislation will have a significant, negative impact on the thousands of individuals who rely on SNAP to secure stable access to nutritious food. Moreover, significant research demonstrates that abuse of food assistance programs is extremely low. 

“139,730 people in New Hampshire are food insecure and 24% of those individuals are veterans. No one in our state should have to choose between paying their bills and buying food for their family,”  continued Fuller Clark. “This legislation puts vulnerable Granite Staters needlessly at risk and places an undue burden on municipalities and already strained food bank services. Democrats will continue to fight against these dangerous and misguided policies that put our state’s families at risk.”

Sarah Mattson Dustin is a staff advocate with The NH Legal Assistance, who testified against the proposed bill,  was also displeased with this vote and vows to continue fighting for low income families.

“NHLA and our allies who work on behalf of low-income New Hampshire families recognize the improvements the NH Senate made to SB 7 today. But this bill as amended still makes it harder for the food stamps program to continue serving low-income working families with kids. We will keep advocating for these essential benefits, which are 100 percent federally funded and a crucial tool in the fight against child hunger. We heard in the debate that New Hampshire’s senators received HUNDREDS of messages against the bill. That is a great sign that New Hampshire voters are engaged and committed to protecting our most vulnerable neighbors. There is still much work to be done, but we are deeply grateful to everyone who stood with us and with low-income working New Hampshire families.”

Opponents of SB 7 continued to point out the SNAP is a federally funded program and the State only pays a portion of the administrative costs.  The changes proposed would increase administrative costs at the state level while kicking more than 10,000 people off the program.

SB 7, submitted by Senator Kevin Avard (R-Nashua), was “word-for-word from The Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida “welfare reform” think tank and member of the right-wing State Policy Network,” wrote Granite State Progress.  GSP also posted Avard’s “Tirade Against Poor Families, Food Stamps, and the Bible on YouTube.

Hard working, low-income workers just got completely screwed by the Republican led Senate who once again blocked an increase in the minimum wage and simultaneously making it hard for them to feed their families.

Granite State Rumblings: Americans Want A Candidate Who Will Invest In Children

Public Opinion Shows Voters Strongly Favor Investments in Children & Youth

A new poll commissioned by the Children’s Leadership Council finds that a strong majority (63 percent) of Americans want more funding for programs that support children and young people. More than three in five adults strongly favor expanded spending to improve education, health and nutrition.

In this election year, most adults say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to investing in effective child and youth well-being policies, according to a new national poll conducted by Hart Research on behalf of the Children’s Leadership Council. More than three in five adults representing every age, race, income and education level across the country, want the next president and Congress to spend more on nutrition, health and education programs for children, according to the poll findings. By overwhelming margins, Americans say the nation’s children would be better off if government did more to support parents and families, and, that they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who would commit to policies that advance children’s well-being, if elected. This is especially true of Millennials, regardless of party.

“Support for the well-being of our nation’s children has no boundaries,” said Randi Schmidt, executive director of the Children’s Leadership Council. “Adults of all stripes, and from every corner of the country, are sending a strong message to presidential candidates and to Congress that our children must come first.”

Those surveyed responded with particular enthusiasm to candidate commitments related to reducing child abuse, child poverty and hunger. These are followed by policies related to child health care coverage, college affordability, child care, and education.

Millennials overwhelmingly support programs aimed at ensuring children’s well-being, according to the poll findings, with three in four millennials (74 percent) saying there should be greater investments in such programs.

Key findings:

Overall government investments in child well-being

  • Support for greater government investments in children is particularly high among Americans age 18- 34 (74%), African Americans (75%), Hispanics (74%), and parents with children under age 18 (71%).
  • Eighty-three percent of Democrats and more than half (58%) of Republicans say the next president and Congress should invest more when it comes to meeting the needs of children.
  • Parents of children under age 18 say that America’s children would be better off if government did more to support parents and families by making education, child care, nutrition and children’s healthcare more affordable. The majority of adults, both parents and nonparents, support this statement, with 75 percent of women, and 64 percent of men responding affirmatively.

Child Poverty and Hunger

  • Both parents and nonparents equally (80%) say they are more likely to support a candidate who prioritizes reducing child poverty and hunger.

Child Abuse and Family Violence

  • Seventy-five percent of all adults surveyed say reducing child abuse and family violence is an especially compelling reason to support a candidate. Among Republicans, this position resonates particularly well, with more than 2 in 3 (67%) of Republicans saying they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who stakes out such a position.

Children’s Healthcare

  • Children’s health care is the top issue among African Americans, with 83 percent of respondents saying they would be more likely to support candidates who commit to preserving and improving health care coverage. Sixty-seven percent of all adults also would be more likely to support a candidate who makes children’s health care a priority.

Affordable College

  • 76 percent of parents with children under 18 say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to making college more affordable, making it the second-most compelling reason among the policies tested, to support a candidate.
  • 66 percent of all respondents say they are more likely to support a candidate who focuses on making college more affordable, while 82 percent of African Americans and 81 percent of Democrats say such a commitment would draw their support.
  • For unmarried moms, parents over 35, college-educated parents, and those making more $75,000 a year, making college affordability a priority is the top reason to support a candidate.
  • Across all geographic and democratic groups, millennials are even more likely than older adults to support an increase in investment for children and youth.

Child Care Assistance and Early Childhood Education

  • Expanding child care assistance and early childhood education garners the most support from African Americans (77%) and Democrats (73%). Both of these groups are most likely to be compelled to vote for a candidate who commits to other learning opportunities, including expanding afterschool programs and summer learning opportunities.

Hart Research conducted the online survey between March 31 – April 6 to understand national sentiment regarding public investments in children and the role of government in improving child well-being. There were 2,050 adults, including 595 parents of children under the age of 18 from across the country, who participated in the survey.

The Children’s Leadership Council is a coalition of leading policy and advocacy organizations, (which includes Every Child Matters), that are working every day to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in order to prepare them for school, work, and life.

For more information, visit the Children’s Leadership Council at childrensleadershipcouncil.org.

Granite State Rumblings: The Most Important Tool To Combat Hunger Is SNAP

SNAPOur nation’s most important tool to combat hunger is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). In 2014, it helped more than 46 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet in a typical month. The federal government pays 100 percent of SNAP/Food Stamp program benefits. Federal and State governments share administrative costs (with the federal government contributing nearly 50 percent.)

In the weak economy resulting from the recent recession, SNAP helped ensure that more than 48,000 households in New Hampshire had access to the food and nutrition needed to stay healthy. The SNAP (Food Stamps) program also provides access to food to more than 1,600 homeless households in New Hampshire.

The overwhelming majority of SNAP participants are children, seniors, or people with disabilities. SNAP also serves a huge number of households with a working adult whose job just doesn’t pay enough for them to make ends meet. SNAP fills in the cracks for low-wage workers, making sure they aren’t forced to choose between feeding their families and paying the rent. The benefits SNAP provides are very modest, the average SNAP recipient received about $125 a month (or about $4.17 a day) in fiscal year 2014.

We are concerned by continual attempts to weaken SNAP, at both the state and federal levels. SNAP helps thousands of New Hampshire and Maine households put healthy food on the table every day. The program grew to meet the need during the economic recession and now participation is slowly declining as our economy improves. Attempts to further restrict the program are unnecessary and shortsighted. Denying individuals access to food assistance would have long terms consequences for our nation’s health and productivity that are far greater than any immediate budget savings.

Fundamentally, SNAP is about giving families, children, and individuals the opportunities they deserve. For parents working in low-wage jobs, SNAP allows them to focus on things beyond where their next meal will come from. For kids, SNAP means going to school with a full stomach so that they can focus and succeed in the classroom. For seniors, SNAP ensures they can fill their prescriptions and still buy enough groceries to remain healthy and independent. And for adults struggling through an unexpected job loss, illness, or other tragedy, SNAP provides an important stepping stone, helping them get through a hard time. Last but not least, SNAP supports our grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and state economy by bringing our federal tax dollars back to the states.

As we enter a new year and we still have many families struggling, please let our lawmakers know that SNAP is quietly providing dignity and opportunity for millions of Americans when they need it most.

GROWING UP GRANITE

You see them in the grocery stores during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays – the readymade boxes or bags of grocery items that you can purchase and then have donated to a family in need. They are a wonderful way to help get food to the people who need it. But what happens when the holidays are over? The need continues, but do donations?

The NH Food Bank has some ideas about how to continue to meet the needs of others throughout the year:

Tips for hosting your own food drive

By hosting a food drive you can help the NH Food Bank continue to meet the needs of many people in our community. Here are some tips that may help you plan a successful drive:

Tell us about your drive.

We love to list food and fund drives on our website. Some donors visit our site to see where they can bring food donations, so giving us your information may help increase participation. Even if your drive is internal and you aren’t looking for outside donations, telling us about your drive will help us to keep track of when to expect new food items to arrive. In order to keep a steady flow of food, we will stagger food drive dates when possible and coordinate our food purchases with times we know food drives will be few.

Click here to download our Event Request Form and e-mail it to Lisa Smith Dean, fax it to Attn: Food Drives at (603) 669-0270, or mail it to New Hampshire Food Bank, Attn: Landis, 700 East Industrial Park Drive, Manchester, NH 03109. We will review your form and get back to you with any requests for support or materials that you include.

Think about what would motivate your audience, and how to communicate with them.

Office Drives

  • Have your coworkers “pay” 5 food items to be able to dress down on Friday
  • Offer up a half day to the person or department that brings the most items
  • See if your company would be willing to match cash donations, or match each food item donated with $1
  • Send e-mails to everyone in the office and put up fliers in high-traffic areas such as bathrooms, elevators and bulletin boards

School Drives

  • Have a competition between classes to see who can collect the most items
  • Have a pep rally to kick off the drive
  • Give updates on who is winning the competition on a daily or weekly basis over the PA system
  • Have a reward for the winning class – maybe a pizza party or ice cream sundaes

One-Time Drive

  • Spread the word as early as possible, and send a reminder a day or two before the event
  • If there is only one day when you are collecting food items, it’s important to remind your group a few times so that they remember to bring their items

Promote, promote, promote. If no one knows about your drive, no one will participate. Think of your audience and what modes of communication are available:

  • E-mails
  • Fliers in office mailboxes
  • Posters and fliers in public areas
  • Press Releases in a local newspaper
  • Announcements in a newsletter
  • Announcements on a PA system
  • Mention on a website
  • Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on a radio station

Combine your food drive with a fund drive.

Lots of people forget to bring their items while they are dealing with the everyday stress of life – consider collecting cash or check donations as well. Checks can be made out to “NH Food Bank,” and you can mail them to us after the event. If you collect cash donations, we do not recommend mailing cash – bring your cash to the Food Bank along with your food collection, or contact us to work out logistics.

Set a goal.

Whether you’re at a school or an office, everyone understands a goal. Some groups have set a numerical goal – collect 5,000 cans of soup, or 1,000 boxes of cereal. Other groups strive to fill an object – an outdoor store might try to fill a canoe with food, or a school might try to fill 5 recycling bins. Something visual always motivates people to participate – if possible, keep your canoe or recycling bins in a public area so everyone can see how the drive is going. If you’re close to your goal and everyone sees it, they might be more willing to help get you that last little bit.

Have food you would like to donate?

Bring your food donations to our new warehouse located at 700 East Industrial Park Drive in Manchester. Our hours are 8am-4pm Monday thru Thursday and 8am-2pm on Friday. If you are holding a food drive, or for those who have difficulty getting to us, there are some other options. Depending on your location and the volume of food you have to donate, we may be able to arrange a pickup or we can refer you to one of our registered agencies in your area.

Birthday Parties

A growing number of children are helping the Food Bank stock our shelves by asking their friends to bring food items to their birthday parties rather than gifts. Rather than accumulating piles of gifts that will never be used, e-mail Lisa Smith Dean to find out what types of food items are in demand and have your child’s friends bring those food items to donate. Instead of parents going out each month to buy birthday presents, they can pick up some extra items at their next grocery store run. This helps to feed the hungry in our state as well as teaches your children about the importance (and reward!) of charitable giving.

Food donors are protected from liability under the Good Samaritan Law and are able to take a tax deduction equal to cost plus one half of normal mark-up.

Granite State Rumblings: Over One-Third Of Single Moms Face Food Insecurity In 2014

Nearly Empty Refrigerator (The She-Creature FLIKR)

Nearly Empty Refrigerator (The She-Creature FLIKR)

An estimated 14.0 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during the year in 2014, meaning they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. The change from 14.3 percent in 2013 was not statistically significant. The USDA issued this information in a new report released last week; Household Food Security in the United States in 2014 by Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew Rabbitt, Christian Gregory, and Anita Singh.

Most U.S. households have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living—they are food secure. But a minority of American households experience food insecurity at times during the year, meaning that their access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources. USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs increase food security by providing low-income households access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education. USDA also monitors the extent and severity of food insecurity in U.S. households through an annual, nationally representative survey sponsored and analyzed by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). Reliable monitoring of food security contributes to the effective operation of the Federal food assistance programs, as well as that of private food assistance programs and other government initiatives aimed at reducing food insecurity.

Here’s a summary of what the report found:

The estimated percentage of U.S. households that were food insecure remained essentially unchanged from 2013 to 2014; however, food insecurity was down from a high of 14.9 percent in 2011. The percentage of households with food insecurity in the severe range—described as very low food security—was unchanged.

  • In 2014, 86.0 percent of U.S. households were food secure throughout the year. The remaining 14.0 percent (17.4 million households) were food insecure. Food-insecure house- holds (those with low and very low food security) had difficulty at some time during the year providing enough food for all their members due to a lack of resources. The changes from 2013 (14.3 percent) and 2012 (14.5 percent) to 2014 were not statistically significant; however, the cumulative decline from 14.9 percent in 2011 was statistically significant.
  • In 2014, 5.6 percent of U.S. households (6.9 million households) had very low food security, unchanged from 5.6 percent in 2013. In this more severe range of food insecurity, the food intake of some household members was reduced and normal eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year due to limited resources.
  • Children were food insecure at times during the year in 9.4 percent of U.S. households with children (3.7 million households), essentially unchanged from 9.9 percent in 2013. These households were unable at times during the year to provide adequate, nutritious food for their children.
  • While children are usually shielded from the disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake that characterize very low food security, both children and adults experienced instances of very low food security in 1.1 percent of households with children (422,000 households) in 2014. The changes from both 2013 and 2012 were not statistically significant.
  • For households with incomes near or below the Federal poverty line, households with children headed by single women or single men, women living alone, and Black- and Hispanic-headed households, the rates of food insecurity were substantially higher than the national average. In addition, the food insecurity rate was highest in rural areas, moderate in large cities, and lowest in suburban and exurban areas around large cities.
  • The typical (median) food-secure household spent 26 percent more for food than the typical food-insecure household of the same size and composition, including food purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program).

Sixty-one percent of food-insecure households in the survey reported that in the previous month, they had participated in one or more of the three largest Federal food and nutrition assistance programs (SNAP; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and National School Lunch Program).

The defining characteristic of “very low food security” is that, at times during the year, the food intake of household members was reduced and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because the household lacked money and other resources for food. In the 2014 survey, households classified as having very low food security (representing an estimated 6.9 million households nationwide) reported the following specific conditions:

  • 98% reported having worried that their food would run out before they got money to buy more.
  • 97% reported that the food they bought just did not last and they did not have money to get more.
  • 97% reported that they could not afford to eat balanced meals.
  • 96% reported that an adult had cut the size of meals or skipped meals because there was not enough money for food.
  • 89% reported that this had occurred in 3 or more months.
  • 96% reported that they had eaten less than they felt they should because there was not enough money for food.
  • 69% reported that they had been hungry but did not eat because they could not afford enough food.
  • 30% reported that an adult did not eat for a whole day because there was not enough money for food.
  • 24% reported that this had occurred in 3 or more months.

Rates of food insecurity were higher than the national average for the following groups:

  • All households with children (19.2 percent)
  • Households with children under age 6 (19.9 percent)
  • Households with children headed by a single woman (35.3 percent) or a single man (21.7 percent) and other households with children (24.4 percent)
  • Households headed by Black, non-Hispanics (26.1 percent), and Hispanics (22.4 percent)
  • Low-income households with incomes below 185 percent of the poverty threshold (33.7 percent

Every Child Matters and many other organizations across the country are calling on Congress and the President to support strategies that increase employment and wage growth for America’s families and to invest more in federally-funded programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child nutrition programs.

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act authorizes all of the federal child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and WIC. These programs provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods where they live, play, and learn. The current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is due for reauthorization by September 30, 2015.

You can help too! Congress is back from August recess – Take these actions as Child Nutrition Reauthorization heats up. Senate markup scheduled for Sept. 17th.


Growing Up Granite

Don’t forget about our upcoming event.

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Granite State Rumblings: Reauthorizing CHIP and MIECHV

Over the course of the last month I have written about the need to reauthorize two very important programs that support children: The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV).

Today I have Good News to Share!! 

Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). In addition to extending CHIP for an additional two years, MACRA extends funding for the Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program which is slated to expire March 31, 2015—at current funding levels of $400 million per year – and community health centers, along with other key programs for low-income families and seniors. 

We applaud the House and House leadership for taking a bipartisan approach to the important issues of the future of CHIP and MIECHV.  We are especially pleased that the approach to CHIP maintains this successful program in its current state, rather than making harmful cuts. While no bill is perfect, overall this bill protects and extends programs vital to the health of children and families.

Please take the time to thank your members of Congress who voted to support CHIP in the House. In New Hampshire both Congresswoman Kuster and Congressman Guinta supported the bill. In Maine both Congresswoman Pingree and Congressman Poliquin supported passage of the legislation.

Continued funding depends on the Senate taking similar action. However, Senate leadership has decided to wait until after recess to vote on a package. President Obama has already signaled that he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

The Senate will be out on recess until April 13. We strongly encourage you to call or meet with your senators and their staff during this two-week period when they are home. Please urge them to extend CHIP with all its current provisions intact as quickly as possible.

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While we are thanking our members for the above, we must also be talking to them about the steps they are taking that are harmful to children and families. Such is the case with SNAP. 

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House and Senate Pass Budgets that Disproportionally Attack Federal Nutrition Programs
Statement by James Weill, President, Food Research and Action Center

As the country grapples with the hardships and damage created by declining and stagnant wages, declining opportunity, worsening inequality, and growing struggles of both low-income and moderate-income families, the House and Senate this week passed budgets that would make all those problems worse. One centerpiece of these ill-conceived budgets is subjecting the federal nutrition programs to staggering cuts that would directly impact the health and well-being of tens of millions of people living below or just above the poverty line. 

Congress is ignoring the realities of the struggles of millions of individuals and families who must rely on programs such as SNAP to make ends meet. They are seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, children, and working and unemployed adults; and they live in every community in our country.

As the process continues, we urge Members of Congress to spend more time in their states and districts to talk with families receiving programs like SNAP and learn about their needs and the programs’ strengths. FRAC and our state and local allies will continue to press Congress to listen to the voices from back home and to respond to the needs of their constituents who rely on these programs to meet their most basic needs and help lift them out of poverty.


There has been much rhetoric tossed about regarding the NH House budget the past few weeks. One thing that was said by several representatives has really bothered me. Comments have been made that  when the House budget under then Speaker O’Brien was passed there were claims made that the sky would fall and it didn’t and it won’t fall with this budget either.

Well, I beg to differ. 

If you were one of the intact families who saw their household income wiped out when the TANF 2-parent assistance program was eliminated by the legislature, the sky fell.

If you were one of the children who saw their household income plummet when the eligibility for SSI/TANF changed, the sky fell.

If you were the parent of a child with a mental health crisis who waited with him/her in a hospital emergency room for days because there were no beds available at the New Hampshire State Hospital, the sky fell.

This year, members of the New Hampshire House Finance Committee have proposed slashing many of the health and safety programs that serve and protect New Hampshire’s children and families, as well as the communities in which they live and work. The proposed cuts far exceed the moderate cost reductions needed to balance the state’s biennial budget.

And once again, for many children and their families the sky will fall

We are asking you to ACT NOW to STOP these unnecessary budget cuts that are harmful to New Hampshire’s children and families by adding your name to our petition.

Petition Text:
We call on members of the state House & Senate to pass a responsible, balanced budget that protects taxpayers without sacrificing the essential programs and services that New Hampshire families and communities depend on for our health, safety, and quality of life.

Please take a minute now to Sign the Petition.
Thank You!!

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On Wednesday, April 1st, (I’m not fooling you!), the NH House will vote on the budget that was passed by the House Finance Committee (14-9).
Prior to that vote, please join advocates, faith leaders, and other concerned citizens at the State House to tell our representatives to VOTE NO on the House Finance Committee budget and instead pass a responsible, balanced budget that protects taxpayers without sacrificing the essential programs and services New Hampshire families and communities depend on for our health, safety, and quality of life.

State House Visibility
Wednesday, April 1st at 9:00 AM / 9:30 AM
State House, 107 N. Main Street, Concord

If you are unable to join to us in Concord please call your state representative with the same message.

Let’s work together to ensure that New Hampshire has a strong safety net in place for ALL Granite Staters.

Our friends at the NH Fiscal Policy Institute have issued an analysis of the House budget. You can find that Budget Brief here.

Granite State Rumblings: The Federal Budget Process And A Few Of The Proposed Cuts

BudgetI spent last week in Washington, DC. Two of those days I attended the National Association for the Education Young Children’s (NAEYC) public policy conference. We met with Congressional staff and advocated for programs that support young children and their families. It was a very full couple of days, but time well spent. And I was honored to be with a great team of advocates!

One of the topics we discussed was the Federal Budget. NAEYC put together an informational sheet about the budget which I would like to share with you.

The Federal Budget Process
While there is a traditional budget process, less traditional funding mechanisms have been relied upon by legislators in recent years. The following outlines the traditional budget process, frequently relied upon funding strategies, and additional resources.

The Traditional Federal Budget Process
Traditionally the federal appropriation process has included the following sequence.

Step One: The President’s Budget Request

  • Traditionally the President’s request is submitted to the Congress on the first Monday in February, though the date often changes, especially when a new administration takes office.
  • The President’s budget request details the administration’s position on the full range of federal revenue and spending.
  • The administration uses the budget request to introduce new policies, programs or changes they would like to see enacted.
  • The budget request is a proposal and has no binding authority on Congress.

Step Two: Congress’ Response

  • Creation of a concurrent congressional budget resolution setting the total level of discretionary funding (spending determined by the Appropriations Committee and Congress) for the next fiscal year. While this resolution looks at total federal spending over a 10-year window, it is not binding beyond the approaching fiscal year.
  • Budget resolutions are reviewed by relevant committees and must be approved by the whole chamber.
  • Unlike traditional bills, budget resolutions do not require presidential action and pass with a simple majority.

***(Budget Resolution – a non-binding resolution passed by both chambers of Congress that serves as a framework for budget decisions and sets overall spending limits but does not include funding levels for specific programs.)

Step Three: Congressional Appropriations

  • Once discretionary funding limits have been determined, the funding process moves to the Appropriations Committees in each chamber.
  • The Appropriations Committees determine program-by-program funding levels by addressing 12 separate appropriations bills that are generated by subcommittees covering federal agencies.
  • Appropriations bills are supposed to be passed in “regular order”, meaning the full passage through both chambers by the start of the federal fiscal year on October 1st.
  • As the fiscal year ends, leadership in both chambers often negotiate an omnibus bill, which combines all appropriations bills into one piece of legislation.
  • The final step in enacting program funding consists of the president signing the bills or the omnibus. The president has the authority to veto appropriations bills and Congress can then attempt to override the veto.
  • All appropriation bills are supposed to be fully passed through both chambers by the start of the federal fiscal year (October 1st). Failure to provide appropriations results in a near complete shutdown of federal operations.

***Note: Entitlement programs and other programs that Congress designates as mandatory programs do not rely on the appropriations process.

Alternative Funding Strategies
In recent years Congress has rarely passed appropriations bills as outlined above. Instead, legislators enact a series of continuing resolutions (stopgap measures), which are short-term spending bills that typically maintain funding levels at the previous year’s level in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Should Congress not complete the appropriations process or pass a continuing resolution (CR) by the start of the fiscal year the federal government, with a few exceptions, shuts down. The funding gap created during the time of a government shutdown results in hundreds of thousands of government employees out of work. Unfortunately, the threat of government shutdown is an often-used strategy for elected officials seeking particular priorities be included in or removed from continuing resolutions.

Continuing resolutions usually last for a number of weeks, and are typically renewed when negotiations extend beyond the new deadline. Continuing resolutions can contain policy provisions as well as revisions to funding levels.

Congress also utilizes emergency spending and deficit legislation in order to impact funding changes outside of the typical budget and appropriations process. Emergency funding is commonly associated with ongoing military operations. Unlike most states (all but Vermont), there is no balanced budget requirement included in the U.S. Constitution, permitting the federal government to carry debt year-to-year. As a result, legislation has also been used in an effort to address the federal deficit through the implementation of spending limits.

~Sources: A Brief Guide to the Traditional Budget Process, CBPP: Introduction to the Federal Budget Process, Impacts and Costs of the 2013 Federal Government Shutdown, The President’s Budget Proposal.

GROWING UP GRANITE

Here are the other federal programs benefitting children, in order, among the ten largest are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, Social Security benefits for dependents and survivors under 18, child nutrition programs, Title I funding for educating disadvantaged children, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant.

We learned in the section above that Congress must pass a series of Appropriations bills that fund the work of the Federal Government.  But did you know that both Congress and the President use this process to identify their priorities for the upcoming year?  In recent years, spending has been limited by the use of “sequestration,” a process that automatically makes cuts to all agencies across the federal government without regard to the impact on services.

Most of the impact of sequester is felt in the “discretionary” programs, which includes the majority of programs serving low-income children and their families. Currently, the automatic cuts triggered by the sequester affect both defense related programs and non-defense programs (the latter are known as “non-defense discretionary spending” or NDD). While the sequester was limited in 2014 and 2015, the cuts are scheduled to be in effect as Congress debates the budget for the next fiscal year (FY 2016).

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, “under current policies, including the sequestration cuts, NDD spending is projected to fall to its lowest level as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) on record in 2016, with data going back to 1962, and will continue to fall thereafter. (Even without the sequestration cuts, NDD spending is projected to reach its lowest level as a share of GDP in 2017). By 2021, if sequestration stays in place, funding for NDD programs will be 18 percent below the 2010 level (adjusted for inflation); 2010 was the last ear before Congress began cutting discretionary funding to reduce the deficit.”

Under current funding levels, the unmet needs of children and families are significant:

  • Only one in six eligible children receives child care assistance that help families work and children be safe and supported in learning and development.
  • Less than half of eligible preschoolers can enroll in Head Start, which provides school-readiness and comprehensive services.
  • Less than four percent of eligible babies and toddlers can enroll in Early Head Start, which ensures a positive developmental foundation for young children.
  • Many children with developmental delays and disabilities are unable to receive early intervention services because of inadequate funding of Part C of IDEA.

If the sequester cuts are allowed to move forward, the impact on early childhood programs will be significant. Programs that have already had to cut hours of service, serve fewer children, limit the services available, cut staff, lower compensation and make do with much less will see even fewer resources available in their states and communities.

The President, in his Budget proposal for FY 2016, recognized both the need for thoughtful investment and the importance of early childhood programs. The President’s budget document invests heavily in early childhood programs to improve outcomes for young children and to support working families. It proposes, first, to end the sequester.

Here’s what you can do.

Make a call or send an e-mail to the offices of our Members of Congress.

Tell them that children need high-quality programs and supports to help them learn, develop, and build the skills necessary to grow strong and healthy in order to succeed in school and life. These programs need to be adequately funded and not threatened by the cuts of sequestration. It is time to end the sequester.

For more information about sequestration: CBPP: Sequestration and Its Impact on Non-Defense Appropriations.

Kuster Volunteers at Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter

Kuster strongly supports federal efforts to strengthen hunger relief programs 

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Nashua, NH – On Friday, November 21, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) visited the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter to volunteer, tour the agency’s new facility, and learn about the organization’s work to ensure that every Nashua resident has a warm place to find food and shelter this holiday season. The visit also provided an opportunity for Congresswoman Kuster to hear about ways she can help support hunger relief efforts at the federal level.

The Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter has been helping serve the local Nashua community since its founding in 1981. The shelter offers both hunger relief programs and services to help individuals get back on their feet.

“During the holiday season, it’s truly incredible to see so many volunteers giving their time and energy to support their community and help people in need. I applaud the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter for creating a safe place where vulnerable people in Nashua can come to stay warm and get a good meal,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “I feel lucky to have the opportunity to help out and see the inspiring work they do here. In Washington, I will continue to work to ensure organizations like this have the support they need to keep serving the people of this community.”

Kuster has been a strong supporter of federal efforts to benefit food banks and soup kitchens, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, programs that support local farmers and farmers markets, and the Meals on Wheels program. She also introduced the Hunters Feeding the Hungry Act with Congressman Don Young (AK-AL), a bipartisan bill that would provide a tax credit to hunters who donate game to food charities. Additionally, Kuster supported the America Gives More Act to permanently extend the food donation tax deduction, which rewards small businesses that donate excess food to qualified nonprofits.

Congresswoman Kuster is the first New Hampshire Representative to serve on the Agriculture Committee in decades, which has jurisdiction over many hunger relief programs.  She worked across the aisle to successfully pass a Farm Bill last year, and she continues to fight for our local farmers in Washington, many of whom assist in the Granite State’s hunger relief efforts by donating fresh, nutritious food to local food charities and farmers’ markets that serve low-income populations.

What would YOU do with $707 billion?

WWYD_707_billionGoldman Sachs just weighed in with their predictions for next year’s economy. They expect “only a modest growth in business investment”… but a whopping increase in the amount of money corporations will spend buying back their own stock.

(Corporations buy back their own stock to increase per-share prices.  Many CEOs get paid more, if the price of their company’s stock rises.  And most CEOs receive at least some of their compensation as stock or stock options.  Either way, increasing the stock price increases how much $$$ the CEO takes home.)

Next year, Goldman Sachs analysts expect corporations to spend a total of $707 billion buying back their own stock.

What else could Corporate America do with that money?

  • Companies could create about nine million $50,000 jobs – with benefits!  (Wait… isn’t “nine million” the number of people who are unemployed in America, right now?)
  • Companies could “afford” to increase the wages of the 3.3 million minimum-wage workers in America. (Most minimum wage employees work 34 hours or less at their primary job… calculating that as 5.8 billion minimum-wage work-hours a year… would mean that all those workers could get a $122/hour increase!  Yeah, that was “one hundred twenty-two dollars an hour”… do the math yourself.)
  • It could pay for the Food Stamp program — for almost an entire decade. (Which only seems fair, since nearly three-quarters of families receiving public assistance are working families who don’t get paid enough to make ends meet. And it doesn’t matter how profitable the industry is: almost one-third of all bank tellers are on public assistance; more than half of all fast-food workers; thousands upon thousands of workers in other industries.)

But apparently Corporate America isn’t going to be doing anything like that, with that $707 billion. Not creating jobs. Not increasing wages. Not giving up the taxpayer subsidies for their low-wage jobs.

No, Goldman Sachs expects Corporate America to spend that money just… buying back shares of stock.

Which doesn’t really create value. It’s not a new factory, or a new product, or even a new market. All stock buybacks do is concentrate corporate ownership. Like ultra-concentrated dish soap: it’s the same stuff, just in a smaller bottle.

And yes, this does have advantages if you’re looking at things from the CEO’s perspective.

All too often stock buybacks are deceptive things, which create a sugar high in the share price, a nice little windfall for management, and pretty much nothing in the way of actual value creation.

But looking at that $707 billion from the perspective of the 99%…?

  • In a stack of $100 bills… that same money would be about 480 miles high.
  • You could buy enough ultra-concentrated dish soap to fill about 75,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

… and from the perspective of the 99%, either of those options would probably be just as good as spending all that $$$ on stock buybacks.

Have a better idea about how to spend $707 billion? Use our comments section to share it.

Read “Nightmare on Wall Street? Are Stock Buybacks Creating Another ‘Financial Bubble?’” here.

Read “Why the Economy Doesn’t Work for the 99%: Massive Payouts to Corporate Stockholders” here.

 

Granite State Rumblings: SNAP Helps Recipients Eat Better, Boosting Local Farmers Markets

Farm Stand Image by CBERTEL Flicker CC

Farm Stand Image by CBERTEL Flicker CC

We all want every child to have what they need to grow up healthy. Healthy foods contain all the energy, minerals, vitamins and fiber kids need to grow. Yet families who depend on food stamps for the bulk of their meals tend to eat a lot of processed foods that are heavy in carbohydrates. Fresh fruits and vegetables do not seem like an option for many families on tight budgets.

The average SNAP (food stamps) recipient received about $133 a month (or about $4.45 a day) in fiscal year 2013. The average dropped to about $125 a month in fiscal year 2014 when a benefit increase included in the 2009 Recovery Act ended in November 2013, resulting in a benefit cut for nearly every SNAP household.

However, there is some good news. Tucked away in the Farm Bill’s nine hundred plus pages which went into law in February, is a benefit for SNAP beneficiaries that allows them to double their benefits at farmers markets. “This program helps families buy healthy food from their local farmers markets, which also helps family farmers and boosts the economy,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, who was instrumental in introducing the plan.

The program will provide $100 million to create grants that incentivize SNAP beneficiaries to use their benefits at farmers markets by matching their spending.

This is especially important for those on food stamps because, as Terry Smith, Director of the Division of Family Assistance for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said recently, “Almost all clients have run out of food and benefits within the third week of the month, which often forces them to rely on food pantries for assistance”.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo announced over the weekend that USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory now lists 8,268 markets, an increase of 76 percent since 2008. According to the press release:

The data reflects continued demand and growth of farmers markets in every region of the country. Alonzo also announced that AMS is developing three new local food directories that will expand USDA’s support for local and regional foods by providing easy access to the most current information about the local food market.

Alonzo made the announcements at the Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, Wisconsin, the country’s largest producer-only market, where she kicked off the 15th annual “National Farmers Market Week”, from Aug. 3 through Aug. 9, 2014.

“The National Farmers Market Directory numbers reflect the continued importance of farmers markets to American agriculture. Since its inception, the directory has proven to be a valuable tool for accessing up-to-date information about local farmers markets,” Alonzo said. “Farmers markets play an extremely important role for both farmers and consumers. They bring urban and rural communities together while creating economic growth and increasing access to fresh, healthy foods.”

The USDA National Farmers Market Directory provides information about U.S. farmers market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, and much more. The data is collected via voluntary self-reporting by operating farmers market managers and is searchable by zip code, product mix, and other criteria.

One of the biggest issues with this program is that many SNAP recipients may not know about it. Let’s help spread the word!

Here is an excellent article on the topic from Seacoast Online:

Food aid boosted for Seacoast families By Denise J. Wheeler

Among the shoppers at last weekend’s bustling Portsmouth farmers market was a 45-year-old man buying fresh produce for the first time in his life. “I’m on Cloud Nine,” he told a Seacoast Eat Local volunteer. “I didn’t know lettuce came in a ball.”

In a region becoming increasingly renowned for its culinary elite, there are many who cannot afford the luxury of farm fresh raspberries in July at $4 a half-pint. Left without enough money to pay bills and feed their children, families using the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps — tend to shy away from grocery store produce sections and farmers markets, fearing the price of fresh food will consume too much of their limited monthly allotment. Too often, by the month’s end, SNAP funds have run out for families and they end up in food pantries.

Read the rest of the article.

Granite State Rumblings: Even Paul Ryan Sees We Must Do Something About Poverty

Last week Representative Paul Ryan unveiled his plan to fight poverty in America. He calls it “Expanding Opportunity in America”. In this plan States would have the option of combining up to 11 safety net programs to pilot what he calls new approaches to case management and services delivery.

Well, not all states, as Chairman Ryan writes in his plan, “….this proposal would create a new pilot project in a select number of states. In participating states, the federal government would consolidate a number of means-tested programs into a new Opportunity Grant (OG) program. The largest contributions would come from SNAP, TANF, child-care (CCDBG), and housing-assistance programs and the funding would be deficit-neutral relative to current law”.  (page 14)

In other words this plan would consolidate the programs into a single block grant for states. Block grants tend to reduce the efficiency of the program over time, as we have witnessed with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program (TANF). This program was block granted in 1996 as part of welfare reform and has never seen an increase in funding. In fact, it has lost more than 30% of its value when adjusted for inflation.

Block grant programs cannot respond to economic downturns that result in increased needs. As noted by Melissa Boteach and Rebecca Vallas in a July 24th blog post, “this was apparent during the Great Recession. While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, proved incredibly responsive to the economic downturn, with enrollment increasing from about 20 million individuals in 2007 to more than 44 million in 2011, the number of families that TANF helped barely budged and actually declined in some states despite the tremendous increase in poverty and hardship. Yet Rep. Ryan’s plan includes SNAP—one of our strongest countercyclical and anti-poverty programs—as a candidate for consolidation. While he claims that ultimately a countercyclical element could be built into the block grant, he acknowledges that in the pilot stage it would not be included, making the state pilots looks more like TANF. This type of reform does not build on what works”.

The plan also calls for those who receive assistance to work with state agencies or community organizations to develop a life plan – “…a customized life plan to provide a structured roadmap out of poverty”. That sounds great, a roadmap out of poverty. But, this roadmap comes with a timeline for meeting benchmarks written into the life plan, and sanctions if you miss that benchmark, as well as a time limit for remaining on assistance.

Haven’t we been down this road before in welfare reform too?

Like the current time limit for those in today’s TANF program, what happens to those who have not yet reached financial independence in the required amount of time because their earnings from employment do not raise them out of poverty?

Contrary to Representative Ryan’s assertion that “the biggest snag in the safety net is that it discourages work,” many individuals living in poverty are employed. There is no plan to raise the minimum wage in this proposal. This is unfortunate given that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour by mid-2016, it would immediately lift about 900,000 workers out of poverty.

Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes, “While some other elements of the Ryan poverty plan deserve serious consideration, such as those relating to the Earned Income Tax Credit and criminal justice reform, his “Opportunity Grant” would likely increase poverty and hardship, and is therefore ill-advised”.

We agree. However, Representative Ryan has opened the door to having a national discussion about poverty. We must not allow that door to close.

GROWING UP GRANITE

From our friends at NH Kids Count:

New Hampshire Drops in National Child Well-Being Ranking from #1 to #4

Demographic, social and economic changes combined with major policy developments have affected the lives of children in both positive and negative ways since 1990, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 25th edition of its annual Kids Count Data Book.  New Hampshire, which has been ranked first in the nation in overall child well-being for more than ten years, fell in ranking this year, moving from first to fourth behind Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa.

Mimicking national gains, New Hampshire saw measurable improvements in education, health and safety.  More children are attending preschool, the number of children without health insurance declined and the number of teens who abuse alcohol and drugs also decreased.

Despite these positive advancements, negative trends in economic well-being continue to significantly impact the vitality of New Hampshire’s children and families. New Hampshire’s child poverty rate continues to rise more than the national average, and surged from 9 percent to 16 percent between 2005 and 2012.  The number of New Hampshire children whose parents lack secure employment increased by  24 percent since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. And, between 2005 and 2012,New Hampshire saw an increase in the number of children in single parent families, from 24 percent to 30 percent (80,000 children); a 25 percent change.

In addition, the high cost of housing continues to affect 39 percent of NH children and their families.

While New Hampshire fell in ranking, it is still within the top five states nationally.

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