June 11th, 2018
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- 1. VICTORY! Budget Deal Ends Cashout in SSI: Restores Annual Cost of Living Allowance for SSI Recipients
- 2. Senate Now Working on Farm Bill: Looks A Lot Better Than House Version
- 3. Trump Admin Plans to Move SNAP to HHS
- 4. Food Safety Bill Could Hurt Grassroots Anti Hunger Work
- 5. UN Condemns US current Inequality
- 6. “Too poor to afford food, too rich to qualify for help”
- 7. Banning Drug Felons from Food Stamps Backfired
- 8. Food Waste LA Times Opinion
- 9. Redondo Beach Obesity
- 10. LA Homeless Services Authority Holds Listening Sessions on Black Homelessness: June 14
1. VICTORY! Budget Deal Ends Cashout in SSI: Restores Annual Cost of Living Allowance for SSI Recipients
Victory can be rare in the field of preserving social programs that help those who are broke, desperate, hungry and barely surviving, especially in the last few decades in America.
But finally, brighter times are ahead for most of the 1.5 million SSI/SSP recipients in California, as the state budget deal announced by the Governor and the Democratic and Republican leaders of the state Assembly and Senate includes a provision to allow SSI recipients to once again be eligible for CalFresh, allowing them access to badly needed assistance to purchase nutritious food. The deal also restores the guarantee of an annual Cost of Living Allowance increase to the state portion (that’s the SSP , state supplemental payment) of the SSI/SSP payment (currently only $910 per month for most recipients.)
While due to complications, a few thousand participants won’t see eligibility (or are in families that will actually see a decrease in benefits), the state leaders agreed to a “Hold Harmless” provision that will at least partially offset any losses with a supplement from the state.
Congratulations are in order to advocates across the state of California, including many who are recipients of the SSI/SSP benefit themselves and relayed the story of their daily struggles in phone calls, emails, legislative visits and rally days during the last 4 years as the campaign intensified. And to many of you reading this who took part in those activities: this is a historic win that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars of food assistance to senior, blind and disabled Californians, many of whom need extra nutrition due to diet-related diseases.
The work is not finished as we need to work with our state and local officials to ensure an accurate and efficient distribution of these benefits that doesn’t leave hungry folks waiting in the lurch.
2. Senate Now Working on Farm Bill: Looks A Lot Better Than House Version
Friday afternoon, the Senate Agriculture Committee released the text of its proposed Farm Bill. The Senate’s bill is the result of bipartisan negotiations led by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and unlike the House counterpart, will likely get bipartisan support. The Senate’s bill does not contain the huge cuts to SNAP that were in the House bill.
This new Farm Bill proposal will be discussed by the Senate in the coming week.
Meanwhile, the House bill, which had big SNAP cuts created by harsh work requirements, is possibly going to be up for vote again the week of June 22.
See Food Research and Action Center’s update page:
3. Trump Admin Plans to Move SNAP to HHS
While the House and Senate have been working on the Farm Bill, the Trump administration is attempting to move the SNAP program from the jurisdiction of the US Department of Agriculture to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.) HHS already houses other social programs including TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or CalWORKs in California), the last vestiges of the old family cash welfare program, and Medicaid (Medi-Cal here.) Already, HHS has shown its willingness to allow states to include work requirements for Medicaid, approving them in several states, and it would be expected that moving SNAP to HHS jurisdiction would unleash the attacks on SNAP that were present in the recently defeated House Farm Bill. Divorcing SNAP from the Farm Bill would also diminish the profile of the USDA, by removing the largest budget piece from the Farm Bill.
4. Food Safety Bill Could Hurt Grassroots Anti Hunger Work
Assembly Bill 2178 (Limon) appears at first to be a common sense bill about food safety, allowing the Health Dept. to shut down feeding operations if there’s an outbreak of foodborne illness. The bill indeed already passed the Assembly and is headed to the Senate.
But a closer examination reveals the bill seems to be targeting the various grassroots charitable feeding operations in the community, such as Food Not Bombs and Break the Ban, who called national attention when they were arrested for feeding the homeless in El Cajon.
Amongst the actions not currently required by the state, for example, is one that would force these groups, who often operate spontaneously based on available food supplies and volunteers, to register with the local Health Department.
Amendments recently offered to the bill actually make it worse, by requiring charitable food groups to operate only 4 times per month and to only serve packaged foods.
This would end the ability of Californians, seeking to reduce people’s reliance on government programs and seeking to help those with no ability to cook and store food, in the midst of the worst homeless crisis ever, to help their fellow Californians in need.
Please call Southern California Senate Health Committee members Dr. Ed Hernandez (916) 651 4022 and Senator Holly Mitchell (916) 651 4030 and ask them to NOT pass AB 2178 if it contains amendments that would limit charitable feeding operations to feeding pre-packaged food, to operate a limited number of times per month, or to register with the local Health Department. Let them know it is coming to the Health Committee soon.
5. UN Condemns US current Inequality
“Donald Trump is deliberately forcing millions of Americans into financial ruin, cruelly depriving them of food and other basic protections while lavishing vast riches on the super-wealthy, the United Nations monitor on poverty has warned.
Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur who acts as a watchdog on extreme poverty around the world, has issued a withering critique of the state of America today. Trump is steering the country towards a “dramatic change of direction” that is rewarding the rich and punishing the by blocking access even to the most meager necessities.”
“Roughly one-tenth of Disneyland workers reported being homeless in the past two years, meaning they didn’t have a place of their own to sleep, while 56% reported concerns of being evicted from their current residence. Disneyland’s staff was also more likely than other Californians to have moved in the past two years or to live in an apartment or house that’s overcrowded.
Disneyland employees also described difficulty getting enough to eat. Researchers found that 68% of the workers surveyed were “food insecure,” meaning they lacked sufficient access to safe and nutritious food. More than half of those surveyed said they ate smaller meals or skipped meals because of a lack of money, and one in seven employees said they relied on benefits such as food stamps or food from food banks or donation programs.”
6. “Too poor to afford food, too rich to qualify for help”
“Though the economy has greatly improved since the Great Recession, life is getting more expensive: Consumer prices have been rising, and while wages have started to tick up, some workers are finding their paychecks are being stretched too thin.
The rate of food insecurity is currently higher than it was before the Great Recession.
"Even in what seems to be a robust economic recovery, food insecurity remains at a historically high level," Feeding America President Matt Knott.
Nearly every county in the country has families that can't afford to put an adequate amount of food on the table. Many earn too much to get government assistance.”
7. Banning Drug Felons from Food Stamps Backfired
A Ph.D. student in the economics department at the University of Maryland has been able to test the effects of the ban from SNAP benefits that was applied to people who had past drug felonies. The ban was enacted in 1996 and became an option for states, with California clinging to it for a long time before a decade of advocacy helped to reverse and end the ban in recent years.
Cody Tuttle, the student whose paper was released earlier this spring, found that at least in Florida, the law increased recidivism among those banned for trafficking drugs.
“What I find is that for those people that are banned from SNAP … they’re more likely to go back to prison,” Tuttle told The Intercept. In fact, his report shows that individuals who committed drug trafficking offenses after the SNAP cutoff date were “nine percentage points more likely” to return to prison.
8. Food Waste LA Times Opinion
Sharon Kunde, an English doctorate at UC Irvine, wrote an excellent editorial in the LA Times about food waste. As a few others have done recently, Sharon’s family dumpster dived and found so much edible food that they had to give some of it away to a local food pantry:
“On a recent Monday, my kitchen was full of breakfast options: apple-topped streusel, lemon poppyseed muffins, almond Danish. There were also ripe bananas, dented boxes of cereal and several cartons of eggs, each with one cracked and cemented in its cardboard divot, but 11 intact and gleaming. The bounty came from the dumpster of a local grocery store. It’d been retrieved by my husband and two friends the night before. We’d keep what our family of four could eat — and there would still be extra to take to a nearby food pantry.”
“Worldwide, a third of all food is lost or thrown away each year, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization. This 1.3 billion tons of unconsumed food is increasingly recognized as a major ecological problem. Producing it wastes more than 1 trillion gallons of water and billions of pounds of petroleum-derived fertilizer. This loss maddeningly persists alongside widespread food insecurity. And much of the waste ends up in landfills, where it decomposes without air, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.”
9. Redondo Beach Obesity
Childhood obesity in the Redondo Beach school district plummeted from 20 percent in 2007 to 6.4 percent last year and test scores have improved, said school district Superintendent Steven Keller. Los Angeles County overall has a childhood obesity rate of 22.4 percent.
Among the techniques employed by the district were a heavy promotion of fruits and vegetables as well as the creation of a school garden, education on the effects of sugar, as well as, taking soda and candy out of the vending machines.
10. LA Homeless Services Authority Holds Listening Sessions on Black Homelessness: June 14
From LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA): 40% of people experiencing homelessness in LA County are Black, although Black people make up only 9% of the county’s total population.LAHSA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness is conducting listening sessions throughout LA County to understand the barriers Black people may face when trying to exit homelessness.
Three sessions have been held. The remaining session:
Thursday June 14, 6:30 to 8:30 pm, Holman United Methodist Church, White Hall 3320 W Adams Blvd., LA
More information www.lahsa.org