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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: 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: 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.

How One Profitable Company Took Home A Tax Refund Equal To All Of The SNAP Benefit Cuts

Taxes Cartoon

Last year the Republicans in the House pushed to cuts the SNAP program by $5 billion dollars over the next ten years.  These draconian cuts reduced benefits to millions of hungry children.   The GOP claims we need to balance the budget and they refuse to make changes to the tax rates, which would lead to higher revenues.  “NO NEW TAXES!” Republicans across the country have vowed, even signed pledges, not to raise taxes or create any new taxes.   Because the Republicans are unwilling to make changes to our tax system, they insist on making cuts to programs like SNAP, to balance our budget.

Our taxes help to pay for everything from the town snowplow driver to the roads we drive on.  They pay for the schools and the teachers who educate our children.  They pay for the police officers and firefighters who keep us safe, day and night.  That is what our taxes pay for.  Taxes are the financial foundation that our community is based on.

Nationally our taxes pay for so many things that it would take 1000 pages just to list them all.  The US Government helps to fund businesses large and small, research to make our lives better, and programs designed to keep people out of poverty.  Again our taxes are there to create a better society to live in.

Think about what America would look like if we did not pay taxes?  How would we get from place to place without roads? Or airports? It is truly scary to think about.

This explains why people become so outraged when politicians make drastic cuts to social assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

What if there was a way that we could reverse the cuts to SNAP, reduce our national debt, and build a better community all at the same time, all without creating new taxes.  Would you be in favor of that?  I know that I would.

The answer is a simple as making sure that everyone is paying their fair share of the taxes. It all comes from closing the loopholes in the tax code that allow corporations to avoid paying their fair share.

For example, from 2008-2013 General Electric made $33 billion dollars in profits and received a tax rebate.  GE received $2.9 billion dollars in federal tax refunds in the last 5 years.   If this continues the federal government will give GE over $5.8 billion dollars in tax refunds over a ten-year period.  That is $800 million dollars more that all of the SNAP cuts in the same ten years.

How is that even possible? How does a highly profitable company get a tax refund of billions of dollars?  Due to loopholes and the offshoring of profits, GE effectively got their tax rate to -9%, hence the refund.  Last year my effective tax rate was 18% and I did not make $100 million dollars.

The worst part is GE is not alone in this atrocity.  Boeing, Verizon, Bank of America, Citigroup all made billions in profits and had effective tax rates so low, they did not have to pay taxes, they received a refund.  In fact Boeing (-2% tax rate) and Verizon (-2% tax rate) alone collected over $1.2 billion dollars in tax refunds over the last five years.

The list goes on. Pfizer pharmaceuticals, who are quickly becoming the master of offshoring profits, made $43 billion between 2010-2012, and received a $2.2 billion dollar refund. FedEx made $2.7 billion dollars in profits in 2011 received a refund of $135 million dollars.  Honeywell made $3 billion and received $510 million in refunds.

That is an extra $4 billion in tax refunds to corporations who are exporting jobs, and raking in massive amounts of profits.  This does not even include the trillions of dollars given to Citigroup and Bank of America during the “Wall Street bailout.”

The same corporations that are reaping huge rewards from the US Government are pushing to further destroy our social safety net.  Many of the CEO’s are calling for deeper cuts to Social Security and other programs.  They are also pushing to raise the eligibility age requirement for Medicare and Social Security.

We could restore all the cuts to SNAP program and put billions towards the deficit, just by making sure that these corporations are just paying their fair share.  Our communities are staving for funds and a handful of corporations are walking away with billions of our tax dollars.

 

 

For more information on the Top 10 worst tax avoiders click here.

NH Congressional Reps Should Not Have Voted For The Farm Bill That Hurts NH’s Hungry Children

As the curator of the NH Labor News social media accounts I get a very deep, inside look at how people think about the issues taken up by the NHLN.  Usually I get attacked from the right by anti-union, right-wing zealots who tell me that I just do not understand economics, etc.  I am well versed in my responses to them.

This week I was very surprised when I was hearing outrage from the left, over the passage of the Farm Bill.  For those who do not know about this particular bill, it is full of subsidies for farmers and food producers. It is also the bill that authorizes the amount of money to be given out by the federal government in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps.

The 2013 version of the Farm Bill was passed last summer along party lines and included $40 billion in cuts to the SNAP program.  These cuts immediately outraged Democrats including both of the Representatives from my home state, New Hampshire.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter on July 11th 2013:

“Traditionally, Congress uses the reauthorization of the Farm Bill to work on a bipartisan basis to create fairer farming policies, a healthier America, and contribute to deficit reduction. Unfortunately, today’s legislation would endanger the health of families and children across New Hampshire by completely removing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the bill. Each year, SNAP benefits help 120,000 poor and working New Hampshire residents, 70% of whom are families with children, fight hunger. This program is vital to supporting food banks, soup kitchens, and hungry Americans.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster on July 11th 2013:

“The choice between supporting New Hampshire’s rural economy or funding critical nutrition assistance programs is a fallacy. We can and must do both, and this bill fails to meet that test. I’m deeply dismayed that House leadership is willing to abandon hungry children, veterans, and seniors in New Hampshire and all across the country. It’s wrong and unacceptable.” 

“There is no question that Congress needs to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan Farm Bill, but we need to do it the right way. I continue to urge both parties to work toward a compromise that will protect vital nutrition assistance funding, improve conservation and energy programs, and provide long-term certainty for the agricultural community.”

Everyone praised our representatives for taking a stand and opposing these cuts to the SNAP program.

That was July, and now we are in the end of January, and once again the Farm Bill is up for another vote in the US House.  The 2014 version of the bill includes $8.6 billion in SNAP benefit cuts.  However this time both NH representatives voted for the bill.

CNN reports, “A bipartisan deal on a new farm bill reached earlier this week could trim $90 a month in benefits for 850,000 food stamp recipients, saving the government nearly $1 billion a year.”  The question is how much are those people rally going to get after they trim $90 a month off of their benefits? The average benefit in the US is $134 dollars per month.  Take away $90 from $134 and you are left with under $50 a month.  Not even $2 dollars a day.

The majority of the cuts to the SNAP program are coming from people who live in 16 states. 10 of the 16 states are in the Northeast, spanning from Delaware to Maine.

They say the cuts will close a loophole that gave people more money because they also received home heating oil stipends.  They claim, “the spending cuts would not remove anyone from the SNAP program while ensuring that every person receives the benefits they are intended to receive under the rules of the program,” but I do not believe them.  You cannot take money away from someone and then say they are still getting the same benefits.

After voting for the Farm Bill it was obvious from Rep Shea-Porter’s statement that this was a very difficult decision for her.

“This bill is far from perfect, but I heard overwhelmingly from Granite State farmers and small businesses that this legislation would help them grow New Hampshire’s economy and put food on our tables. I also heard from anti-hunger advocates who share my deep disappointment in this legislation’s cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and they told me that they support this bill because it would reduce the proposed level of cuts and increase funding for emergency food assistance programs.”

“It is outrageous that this legislation gives away millions of dollars to big agriculture corporations while reducing funding for SNAP. But I supported this bill because the good outweighs the bad.”

Rep Kuster’s statement also highlighted how the bill was not perfect but made no mention to the cuts to SNAP benefits.

“This legislation isn’t perfect, but it is a true compromise that will provide our agricultural producers with the support they need to thrive and continue providing Granite Staters with fresh, nutritious, and safe food.”

Rep Kuster’s statement did highlight how the newest version of the bill would add an additional “$20 million a year to food banks throughout the country”.

While I support both Rep Kuster and Rep Shea-Porter on 90% of their votes, but I have to disagree with them on this vote.   We are trading $700 million dollars a year in SNAP cuts for $20 million in food bank donations.  This is bad for low-income families, and bad for our economy.

The SNAP program helps 47 million low-income families by providing money to buy food at their local grocery stores.  SNAP directly helps the economy as well.  Data confirms that for every $1 spent by the government in SNAP benefits generates $1.73 in the local economy.  My simple math says that $8 billion in cuts will result in a loss of over 13 billion in the overall economy. SNAP is an investment in our economy, and it almost doubles our returns.

While, I have been an outspoken advocate for stopping these cuts to the SNAP program, I wonder what business industry has to say about these cuts.

Almost half of all (SNAP) redemptions are in big-box super-centers such as Walmart and Target, according to Bloomberg Industries”. (Bloomberg news)

Walmart alone was reimbursed over $18 billion dollars from the food stamp program last year alone.

CNN is reporting that cuts to the food stamp program last year hurt Walmart’s bottom line.  CNN continues:

The warnings mean the company will report a drop in earnings in the quarter that ends Friday.

It surprises me that Walmart is not lobbying for more SNAP spending, because it directly pads their pockets.  The Farm Bill is full of people lining their pockets, including 10 Republican House members who receive benefits from farm subsidies.

Now we need both of our Senators to stand up for hungry children and Granite Staters, as we are going to be unfairly burdened by the SNAP cuts. Contact your Senator and ask them not to support the Farm Bill if it includes any cuts to hungry children.  You can remind them that there are less than 2.5 million retired veterans who would be effected by the $6 billion dollar budget cut they opposed, and there are 47 million hungry families relying on $8 billion dollars in SNAP benefits.

Politicians Thank Veterans For Their Service, Then Cut Programs To Feed Them

Hometown heroes volunteered and served lunch at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans May 5, 2010.  Photo Credit Cpl. Priscilla Sneden (USMC)

Hometown heroes volunteered and served lunch at the New England Center for Homeless Veterans May 5, 2010. Photo Credit Cpl. Priscilla Sneden (USMC)

This weekend we celebrate Veterans Day.  Veterans Day is the day when we all stop and thank the brave men and women, who stepped up to serve our country.  These men and women risked their lives to protect our freedom, and our way of life.  I would personally like to thank every veteran who chose to serve our country.

I am not the only one who is thanking veterans this weekend.  “Our veterans represent the very best of America,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster.  “Today, and every day, we express our gratitude for the sacrifices they’ve made, for the extraordinary example they’ve set, and for everything they’ve done to keep our country safe, prosperous, and free.

Last year Speaker John Boehner released a video message that said:

Saying ‘thank you’ is important, but there’s always more that we the people can do for those whose sacrifices preserved the heritage of freedom.

While he is saying ‘thank you’ to veterans, he is slapping them across the face at the same time. Speaker Boehner is leading the House of Representatives to starve nearly a million veterans.  The Republicans in the House pushed for billions of dollars in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) more commonly known as food stamps.

There is a well-known myth that people on food stamps are gaming the system.  Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) believes that the entire food stamp program is overrun with “fraud,”. “Absolute 100 percent, all of it is fraud. There’s fraud all through that,” Mullin said.

I wonder if Congressman Mullin’s opinion would change when he finds out that over 2,000 veterans in his state alone rely on food stamps to feed their families?

Accordingly to a report out this week from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, approximately 900,000 veterans are currently dependent, in whole or part, on food stamp benefits to care for their themselves and their families.” (Forbes 10/30/13)

The Huffington post also compiled the number of veterans who rely on food stamps and they came up with a different number.

According to data compiled by the Huffington Post, 1.5 million veteran households are using SNAP. The sharp increase of veterans or other military families relying on food stamps is right in line with what is happening across the board: more families are struggling to make ends meet because of the recovering economy and families who may have never needed assistance before are looking for help.” (Veterans Today)

I do not know which is worse; the fact that Congressional Republicans made cuts to a program that helps feed low-income families or the fact that over 900,000 veterans are dependent on food stamps?

It is disgusting and appalling that our veterans are paid such poverty wages that they cannot afford to live.  Our veterans are also coming back from their time in the service to find high unemployment.  Currently there is a 9% unemployment rate for Veterans, and higher for those Veterans who returned with disabilities.

Bryce Covert wrote on Think Progress:

Nearly one in 10 veterans with disabilities were without employment in 2010. They are also disproportionately likely to live in poverty and to be homeless. In 2010, nearly a million veterans ages 18 to 64 had experienced poverty over the past year. As of 2011, nearly one in seven homeless adults was a veteran and more than four in ten homeless veterans were without shelter. They are therefore heavily impacted by cuts to the social safety net.”

This Veterans Day we need our politicians to stop talking how much they support veterans and actually do something to help our struggling vets.  We need to start by restoring the cuts made to the SNAP program. Then we need to work on lowering the unemployment rate for returning soldiers.

The government should be doing more to help transition these veterans into careers.  They could move right into a civilian government job like the Postal Service or Department of Transportation. The government could also mandate a percentage of veteran employees in private companies with defense contracts.

We as a nation should not sit idly by while our veterans are starving and living on the streets.  This Veterans Day take a moment to help a vet by calling your Congressman and telling them to restore the cuts to the SNAP programs and stop starving our veterans.

Homeless Veterans

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GOP in Congress: Keeping — or BREAKING? — Promises

Crossed fingers ICan someone please explain to me… how can the GOP be simultaneously

  • planning to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits
    and
  • holding sacrosanct the government’s payments to bondholders?

What, exactly, is the big difference?  For Social Security and Medicare, people have paid money into the system, with the expectation that they would receive an agreed-upon return (benefits) at a later date.  Just the same way that bondholders have loaned money, with the expectation that they would receive an agreed-upon return (principal plus interest) at a later date.

Would bondholders be happy if House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan suggested trimming bond repayments between 15% and 45%?  So why should people who have paid into Social Security accept those kinds of cuts?

Let’s see… if Ryan reduced federal bond payments by 15%, wouldn’t that free up about $54 billion a year?  Wait… wouldn’t that more than cover the $40 billion of cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program that Republicans want to make?

Pediatricians at the Boston Medical Center have studied the interaction between hunger and health, and yesterday announced that SNAP was “one of America’s most cost-effective and successful public health programs in the country” and by improving children’s health, SNAP actually “saves society money.”  Except that Republicans want to cut children’s health insurance, too.  At this point, you halfway expect House leadership to start quoting Jonathan Swift.  But I digress.

Or if Ryan reduced bond payments by 45%, wouldn’t that free up about $162 billion a year?  Which would more than cover the revenue cost of not returning to Clinton-era tax rates.

But the GOP isn’t suggesting that bondholders should absorb those sorts of cuts…oh, no, that would be unthinkable.  So why would they think that Social Security recipients are fair game?

You pay your money in, you expect to get it back as promised.

Here’s what I think will happen, during the next few weeks of government shutdown/debt-limit crisis.  I think the Republicans will stop using Obamacare as their line in the sand/can’t compromise issue.  I think they will switch to insisting on some sort of “Entitlement Reform” in exchange for not driving our economy totally off the cliff.  And “Entitlement Reform” is Tea Party lingo for making cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

At one level, I guess it’s fair to lump Social Security and Medicare into the category of “entitlements” – you pay your money in, you’re entitled to get it back as promised.

Just like the US Treasury’s bondholders are entitled to get their money back as promised.

I’m wondering how the GOP is going to explain the difference between those promises, over the next few weeks.  Can’t imagine what rhetoric they will come up with, to justify holding bondholders harmless while trying to cut Social Security benefits.

 

Study in Contrasts: Who’s feeding the hungry?

Community Center of St Bernard Photo by Billy Brown via FlikrIn May, postal workers collected 74.4 million pounds of food through the “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive.  Since it started 21 years ago, this project of the National Association of Letter Carriers has collected more than a billion pounds of non-perishables to restock food banks, pantries and shelters around the country.

Right now, federal employees around the country are collecting food as part of their annual “Feds Feed Familes” campaign.  The program “started when Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and former Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry realized that food donations were dropping during the summer months.” It has run each summer since 2009, restocking food pantries across the US.  Last year was a record year for donations — but so far, they are on track to double last year’s total.

Meanwhile, in Congress…

Before leaving for their August recess, House GOP leaders floated a plan to cut at least four million Americans from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps).  Here in New Hampshire, nearly 116,000 people depend on SNAP benefits to eat.

But they’re still feeding the hungriest beast of all.  Corporations are receiving just as much in special tax breaks as they are paying in taxes.

At last report, corporate tax breaks were running at about $181 billion a year45 times what the GOP plans to cut from food stamps.

But unlike millions of children, corporations aren’t exactly starving here in the United States.  And corporations aren’t getting any of their special benefits cut, to help with the federal deficit.

(Guess Mitt was wrong with his “corporations are people, too” declaration. Can’t help thinking: if corporations were “people”, surely the House GOP would have gone after them by now.)

——-

Special thanks to all our postal workers and federal employees… who are not only feeding hungry Americans, but are also keeping Congress from hitting the debt limit (again, just like back in January).  Yes, “fed-bashing has risen to unprecedented levels in recent years.”  But here at NH Labor News, we truly appreciate you!

Unprecedented Vote on Farm Bill a Bad Deal for New England Farmers

NE_Farmers_Union

SHELBURNE FALLS, MA—After lengthy and rancorous debate, House Republicans passed a partisan 2013 Farm Bill last week that did not include a nutrition title. The bill, which includes just the farm-related provisions of the farm bill, did not receive any Democratic votes and passed by a margin of 216 to 208. The entire New England delegation, comprised of Democrats, voted against the bill.

Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) led the strong opposition to the bill on the House floor as member after member stood to express outrage over splitting programs that support food-insecure consumers, know the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, from the federal farm bill. Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) were among those who spoke in opposition.

Republicans disregarded a letter spearheaded by the National Farmers Union and sent to Speaker John Boehner, opposing the split. The letter was signed by New England Farmers Union and more than 500 conservation, rural development, finance, forestry and energy organizations.

“Today’s strictly partisan vote to pass the farm bill without the nutrition title undermines the longstanding coalition of support for a unified, comprehensive farm bill, which has historically been written on a bipartisan basis,” said New England Farmers Union President Roger Noonan.

“NEFU will continue to do all we can to get a reasonable bill through the conference process. Any final legislation must continue existing permanent law provisions and include meaningful safety-net protections for both family farmers facing difficult times and the food insecure.”

The bill repeals the 1938 and 1940 permanent farm program authorization, which has served as a strong incentive to draft a new farm bill every five years. Colin Peterson, Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, noted on the floor that the bill would leave permanent authorization intact for nutrition, crop insurance and commodity subsidies, but leave conservation, specialty crops, rural development and local food with no legislative vehicle for reauthorization.

###

New England Farmers Union, a member-driven organization, is committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, fishermen, nurserymen, and their customers through educational opportunities, cooperative endeavors and civic engagement. For more information, see www.newenglandfarmersunion.org.

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