Emergency SNAP Allotments

Emergency SNAP Allotments

What They Are and What’s at Risk

By Mary Beringer, Grant Writer


INTRO

The pandemic has made countless changes to the way we live our lives, some permanent and some temporary. Since 2020, the world has had to alter the way we interact with each other and the way we interact with our resources.

Financial instability was exacerbated for families and businesses as a result of the Coronavirus. 334,000 more people were served by Ohio food pantries in March 2022 than in March of 2020. In some cases, federal and state support systems adapted to attempt to ease some of the burden. One such adaptation was emergency SNAP allotments, which helped hundreds of thousands of families keep food on the table and their heads above water. Unfortunately, this program will soon come to an end, unless action is taken.

WHAT IS SNAP & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP and formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program which helps Americans with low incomes buy nutritious food for their families. There are specific eligibility requirements for who can receive SNAP benefits. An applicant’s household must fall at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Limit and cannot have more than $2,250 in resources (such as cash or money in a bank), or $3,500 if at least one person in the household disabled or older than 59. Most applicants who are physically able to work are required to do so, though the number of hours varies based on several factors. Beneficiaries receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which they can use to purchase groceries at approved retailers.

It has been discussed before on this blog how SNAP is critical to our hunger relief work here at The Foodbank. SNAP was built to be a pre-existing structure in times of economic crisis. Foodbanks are critical as well, but for every meal that Feeding America’s network provides, including those from The Foodbank, SNAP allotments provide nine meals. SNAP also stimulates the economy. Every dollar spent in SNAP benefits in Ohio generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity.

There has long been a pervasive public perception that people using SNAP are “lazy” or lying about their need. The truth of the matter is that food insecurity is pervasive, and only a fraction of people who could benefit from food assistance actually get it. At The Foodbank, Inc., we base our data on Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap studies. The post-pandemic data has not yet been released, but in 2019 we know that there were 35,207,000 people who self-reported food insecurity in the United States. 50% of those people were below the SNAP threshold of 130% poverty. Consistently, over the years, we can see that two thirds of people using SNAP are children, seniors, or people with disabilities. These are people who need help getting food on their tables, and while foodbanks help, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without SNAP.

HOW DID IT CHANGE WITH COVID-19?

In a normal year, there are a significant number of people who need food assistance in America. After the pandemic hit, that number jumped dramatically. In the midst of COVID-19, many people lost income, supply chains dried up, and already fraught financial situations became dire. In response, Congress issued SNAP emergency allotments as a part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These are additional funds to supplement what SNAP already supplies.

The emergency allotments helped boost benefits for around 700,000 Ohioans. The specific increase in funds depended on family size and specific situations, but Congress increased monthly benefits for all families by at least $95, and some saw an increase of over $200. Another factor at play is whether or not a household’s state is still in a state of emergency due to the pandemic, which can grant additional benefits. While this is no longer the case for most states, some have chosen to keep the emergency allotments going regardless, as Ohio did.

USDA research has shown that expanded SNAP benefits, along with federal child nutrition programs, were crucial to mitigating the effects of the pandemic on hunger across the country. Some have long said that the standard SNAP benefits were not enough. The only problem is that these life-changing programs are about to end.

WHAT IS AT RISK OF CHANGING?

Some of the SNAP improvements over the last few years are permanent and will do lasting good for our communities. However, as pandemic emergencies end, a significant portion of many people’s SNAP benefits will disappear.

The federal public health emergency (PHE) declaration needs to be renewed every 90 days in order to continue and keep providing expanded benefits. The next 90 day window ends on July 15th, 2022. The Biden Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has promised that it will notify states 60 days prior to the end of the PHE if they will not be renewing it. Because there was no announcement in mid-May, we can assume that the PHE will be extended until mid-October, though it is possible that the July extension could be shorter or longer.

Regardless, eventually the public health emergencies at the state and federal level will be lifted, and Ohioans who depend on the extra money from the emergency allotments will be left in the lurch. The graphic below from the USDA shows just one example of a family’s SNAP benefits at various points in time.

(Image Courtesy of the USDA)

It is true that, in this example, the Johnson family will be receiving more SNAP benefits when the pandemic emergency status ends than they did before the pandemic. However, while the state of emergency has technically ended, this does not mean that American families no longer feel the ramifications of COVID-19. As we have discussed, inflation is at record highs, putting pressure on many American families. Food and fuel costs are especially exorbitant, which makes it harder for people to get groceries, and for foodbanks to stock their shelves.

CONCLUSION

The argument can be made that SNAP benefits were too low for years before the pandemic. What is not debatable is that SNAP has helped hundreds of thousands of Ohioans get by in the past few years, and the ending of expanded benefits will have drastic consequences.

Some lawmakers have proposed legislation to permanently expand SNAP benefits even more, and The Ohio Association of Foodbanks, of which The Foodbank, Inc. is a member, is asking the state of Ohio for $183 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to help stock the shelves of foodbanks across Ohio in preparation for the end of the PHE, when foodbanks and food pantries are likely to see a sharp increase in neighbors visiting. You can sign a petition to support this campaign.

Action must be taken to help maintain the safety net built to protect the most vulnerable people in our society. When things are unstable, we have to lean on each other for support, and many Ohioans are still on shaky ground.

Thank you to Joree Novotny, from the Ohio Association of Foodbanks who helped clarify some of the points included in this blog post.

 

References

“Our Statewide Request For ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Funds – Ohio Association Of Foodbanks”. Ohio Association Of Foodbanks, 2022, https://ohiofoodbanks.org/arpa/.

“Sign-On To Urge Ohio Leaders To Mitigate The Impact Of The COVID Cliff”. Ohio Association Of Foodbanks, 2022, https://p2a.co/pkDpSbd.

“SNAP Benefits – COVID-19 Pandemic And Beyond”. Food And Nutrition Service- U.S. Department Of Agriculture, 2022, https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/benefit-changes-2021.

“State-By-State Resource: SNAP And COVID-19”. Feeding America Action, 2022, https://feedingamericaaction.org/resources/state-by-state-resource-snap-and-covid-19/.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Facts. 2022, https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10101.pdf.

Gallion, Emily. “The Long Shadow Of The “Welfare Queen” Narrative”. The Dayton Foodbank, 2022, https://thefoodbankdayton.org/welfare-queen/.

Guardia, Luis. “Latest USDA Data Reveal SNAP And Child Nutrition Programs Critical To Mitigating Spikes In Hunger Caused By COVID-19 Crisis”. Food Research & Action Center, 2022, https://frac.org/news/usdadatasnapcncritical01282021.

McIntosh, Caitlyn. “SNAP Is Critical To Our Hunger Relief Work – Here’s Why”. The Dayton Foodbank, 2020, https://thefoodbankdayton.org/snap/.

“Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”. Feeding America, https://www.feedingamerica.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/fact-sheets/snap-factsheet-final.pdf.

Ungar, Laura. “SNAP Benefits Helped Older Adults During Pandemic”. AARP, 2021, https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/government-elections/info-2021/snap-benefits-helped-during-pandemic.html.

Wright, Amber. “Inflation Escalates Hunger”. The Dayton Foodbank, 2022, https://thefoodbankdayton.org/inflationescalateshunger/.

Wu, Titus. “700,000 Low-Income Ohio Households Could See Big Cuts To Food Stamps Program In July”. The Columbus Dispatch, 2022, https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/politics/government/2022/05/11/ohio-low-income-families-see-big-cuts-snap-benefits-congress-legislature-food-banks-inflation-covid/9645897002/.

 


Food Insecurity and Mental Health

Food Insecurity and Mental Health

Hunger affects not just the body, but also the mind.

By Mary Beringer, Grant Writer

May is Mental Health Awareness Month It is a time to acknowledge and empathize with the millions of people who struggle with mental illness, and ultimately break the stigma associated with mental health issues. In America alone, one in five adults is living with a mental illness. While there can be a genetic component to mental health, some conditions are caused entirely by responses to personal trauma and lived experiences. One of the traumatic circumstances that can have a devastating effect on one’s mental health is food insecurity.

Research has shown again and again that food insecurity has an impact on the way the human brain operates. The constant stress and instability of not having enough of what you need to survive, and wondering where your next meal will come from, takes a significant toll on the brain and body. Additionally, there is evidence that a lack of certain nutrients plays a role in mental illnesses. No matter the cause, the results are clear: food insecurity can lead to anxiety, mood disorders, substance use, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, depression, and more. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, “mothers with school-aged children who face severe hunger are 56.5% more likely to have PTSD, and 53.1% more likely to have severe depression”. One study showed that the risk of depression due to food insecurity was higher in people over 65, as opposed to younger people. That being said,  food insecurity can have a significant impact on children, especially those in school.

Most people know how a lack of sufficient nutrients can impact a child’s growth. Unfortunately, hunger can affect young people’s mental development too. Kids need lots of energy, both to grow into healthy adults, and to participate in learning and play that will serve them well later in life. The very state of being hungry makes it hard for kids to focus on school, and can slow the development of language and motor skills. Children experiencing food insecurity also often have behavioral issues, which can sometimes result in aggression or hyperactivity. Behavioral issues mean a student will spend more time distracted from classwork, which can lead to declining school performance. According to Feeding America, “Fifty percent of children facing hunger will need to repeat a grade.” Childhood hunger can lead to depression and even suicidal ideation in later life. There is no good time to be hungry.

Mental health struggles are about more than just feeling moody or getting distracted easily. These are serious quality of life issues that can contribute to and exacerbate physical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and even death. Too frequently, the most food insecure populations have the most difficulty accessing mental health services Less than 15% of children experiencing poverty who need mental health care are actually getting it, and the statistics for adults are comparable. Income, race, and geography can all be factors that play into whether or not a person who needs mental health help will be able to receive it. Many therapists and psychiatrists only offer their services during business hours on weekdays, when many people cannot afford to take time off for these services. Moreover, waiting lists for mental health clinics are long, and even once you get in, it often takes months of steady appointments before it feels like you’re making any progress.

Unfortunately, medication and therapy cannot cure systemic societal issues. While The Foodbank, Inc. is doing what it can to get at the root cause of the problem, addressing food insecurity in the Miami Valley, there are people already feeling the effects of hunger on their mental health. If you have Medicaid, you can call the member services number on the back of your card for more information about network providers. The government organization SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) can also provide assistance.

You are never alone, and if our communities can talk openly about mental health, we can all help reduce the stigma and make it easier for people to ask for help.


Incarceration and Food Insecurity

Incarceration and Food Insecurity

Ex-Offenders Face Systemic Barriers to Reentering Society, Most are Food Insecure

By Amber Wright, Marketing

The incarceration rate in the United States is at its lowest since 1995, yet nearly 7 million  US citizens are incarcerated or under community control at any given time.

Roughly 600,000 people are released from prison every year and these barriers and inequities carry over not only for them and their families, but also the communities to which they return.

For this blog, we will look at the nutritional well-being among formerly incarcerated individuals. 91% of people beginning their transition out of imprisonment report not having regular access to nutritious food. Long after release, they still remain twice as likely to be food insecure. Reentering society presents several barriers to gaining meaningful employment, leading to high rates of food insecurity and ultimately higher rates of recidivism and healthcare expenditures.


Importance of Proper Nutrition

Inadequate nutrition has been linked to several consequences such as:

  • Obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and deficits in brain function (CDC)
  • Worsening mood disorders like depression and anxiety (Harvard)
  • Hypertension and osteoporosis (USDA)
  • Hyperactivity, disciplinary problems, psychological problems, and criminal behavior (DOJ)
  • Increase of premature deaths

 

Stable access to healthy foods is crucial for both physical and mental well-being. Just as school children affected by hunger display poor performance and difficulty learning in school, adults suffer the same outcomes in the workplace.

If proper nutrition remains out of reach, it can be difficult to retain employability. Coupled with new or preexisting health conditions, this can generate avoidable healthcare expenses footed by the state.

Research reveals poor diets account for 20% of healthcare costs from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. That equates to about $50 billion that could have been avoided.

There are several factors unique to previously incarcerated individuals that hinder access to a sufficient diet.


Collateral Consequences

Sentences might end, but the consequences of incarceration do not. For those who are released each year, most find significant barriers to getting back on their feet. They struggle to find adequate housing, employment, and living wages. These necessities are crucial for individuals to successfully reenter society instead of returning to the system.

Legally sanctioned restrictions and disabilities resulting from a conviction are known as “collateral consequences.” More than 47,000 collateral consequences have been identified in state and federal law, barring formerly incarcerated people from rights normally granted to American citizens. These may negatively affect access to housing, employment, professional licensure, property rights, mobility and even access to public benefits.


Barriers to Housing

Federal law currently bars access to public housing for people with certain types of convictions and grants private landlords the ability to deny anyone with a criminal background. It is not surprising that a third of people released from prison wind up in homeless shelters. Even those who have been incarcerated only once are 7 times more likely to be homeless than the general populations. It is 13 times more likely for anyone incarcerated more than once, and even higher in both categories for people of color and women.

Legislation punishes homelessness even more by criminalizing things like sleeping in public spaces, panhandling and public urination, which entraps hordes of people in the cycle of poverty while increasing recidivism rates. Even if former inmates are lucky enough to secure housing, they often find themselves limited to low-income, redlined neighborhoods. This increases the likelihood of living in a food desert and raises the chance of food insecurity.


Barriers Employment

Several social and legal barriers make it just as difficult for returning citizens to find employment. The first time data was released on the subject in 2018 by the Prison Policy Initiative, it revealed that unemployment for those leaving incarceration was an astounding 27%. Not only is that 5 times higher than the general population, but it exceeds the rate of any economic crisis, including the Great Depression. More than half of people released from prison remain out of work for at least a year.

One study found that state and federal law restricted ex-offenders from obtaining licensing required for various forms of employment. It discovered more than 12,000 restrictions for individuals with any type of felony and more than 6,000 restrictions based on misdemeanors. Surveys suggest most private employers are unwilling to hire someone who has served a prison sentence and 87% of employers conduct background checks.

Social stigma may suggest that people reentering society are not looking for work, but recent analysis indicates otherwise. For people between the ages of 25-44, data listed 93.3% of ex-offenders were either employed or actively looking for work, while only 83.8% of the general population fell into the same category. Low employment rates are more related to the systemic barriers they face rather than a lack of desire to work. Like housing barriers, people of color and women are affected the most.


Barriers to Benefits

Barriers have also been put in place hindering access to public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

In 1996 federal law banned anyone with a felony drug conviction from receiving SNAP benefits. Since then, most states have either dropped the ban entirely or allowed assistance on the condition of regular drug testing and treatment. However, South Carolina still has the full ban in place.

The additional requirements put in place by states who have modified the ban not only accrue additional costs for the state, but they add strain to the individuals in fulfilling them. Already having a harder time finding employment, they must now limit their availability to make regular appointments.

When accessible, public benefits improve the health of recipients as well as cut costs in other areas. For example, SNAP has shown to reduce healthcare costs while improving the overall health of recipients and reducing food insecurity by 30%. At the same time, studies for even the modified ban on access to these benefits proved to increase recidivism instead.


Why This Matters

It’s not difficult to see how all these factors lead to food insecurity. If someone is unable to find housing or employment, it’s unlikely they will have regular access to healthy foods. Poor nutrition escalates physical and mental health conditions, decreasing employability and overall quality of life. Under these conditions, it is no surprise that both recidivism and poverty rates remain high.

It has been estimated that between 1980 and 2004 overall poverty in America would have dropped 20% if not for mass incarceration.

Poor nutrition exacerbates behavioral issues and aggression. When people have served their sentence, they continue to be punished with collateral consequences and social stigma, resulting in barriers to housing and employment. This increases recidivism and decreases social productivity for everyone.

Instead of funding being spent on public assistance and programs to help people reenter society (or avoid arrest completely,) it is often used to house those who are unable to overcome these challenges.

Reducing recidivism helps everyone. It is essential that ex-offenders be granted the same accessibility to these basic needs to make it happen. More programs should be put in place not only for their benefit, but for that of their families and the overall well-being of society.

 


Food Insecurity in Women-Led Households

Food Insecurity in Women-Led Households

Female headed households were already more vulnerable to food insecurity, but Covid made it worse

By Amber Wright, Development and Marketing

Women have been fighting for equality since before Susan B. Anthony advocated for women’s rights. Our nation has made great strides with females winning the right to vote, gaining employment in greater numbers and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which allowed women to legally own credit cards separate from their husband. However, lasting effects of gender inequality has left many women still experiencing disparities in areas such as poverty and food security.

National food insecurity rates were dropping during the years leading up to Covid, but that trend excluded certain groups such as woman-led families. After the pandemic made its devastating economic impact, they continue to experience higher rates of food insecurity than their peers. More than a quarter of women-led families currently struggle with hunger.

Women are more vulnerable to food insecurity if they have children, although women are more likely to live in poverty even without them. They suffer from greater unemployment during Covid, lower wages, extra childcare responsibilities, and disproportionate health consequences. While this holds true globally, for this blog we will focus on data from the United States.

A great deal of stigma has often plagued single mothers throughout history. Racially charged depictions of the “welfare queen,” along with pervading religious dogma, have contributed to this stigma. Ohio and several other states even considered forced sterilization of single women who had another child while on public assistance. Besides being archaic, this stereotype completely ignores half of single mothers who are divorced, separated, or widowed. It also fails to consider the number of women who are victims of trauma, fleeing physical abuse, or became pregnant because of sexual assault.

Households run by single mothers are the second most common family type in the U.S., accounting for 80.5% of all single-parent families and almost half of all low-income families. This group experiences poverty at more than double the rate of their male counterparts, with 23.4% of single mothers living in poverty compared to 11.4% of single fathers. The numbers are far worse compared to married couples with children, who sit around 5%.

Since food insecurity is driven by lack of income and other critical resources, it is important to look at the inequities regarding employment. In general, women now make 98 cents for every dollar a man makes working the same job. However, the average for single mothers is lower at 82 cents. Average pay is even less for single mothers that are Black (64 cents) or Latina/Hispanic (56 cents).

Our country’s recent recession is the first time unemployment has risen into the double digits for women since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting data by gender in 1948. Since the onset of the Covid economic crisis, women in general have suffered job loss at a higher rate (15.7% for women compared to 13.3% for men.) Once again, rates are higher for Black women (15.8%) and Latina/Hispanic women (19.8%).

This latest economic downturn more adversely effected the service industry, which is disproportionately staffed by women. Data shows women are twice as likely to work in low-wage, part-time jobs with few to no benefits. This leaves many of them lacking adequate health insurance and medical care. Of all groups, single mothers are most likely to lack coverage. It further jeopardizes their basic income if sick leave is not provided. It is also worth noting that unlike most of our peer countries, the U.S. does not grant new mothers paid leave.

Another contributing factor is closures of schools and child-care facilities. Women carry a higher burden of childcare responsibilities: 80.5% of all single-parent households are run by a mother alone. Of these households, only a third received any child support payments, which averaged only $286 a month. The average cost of childcare alone is $808/month in Ohio and a little more than $750/month nationally. However, many facilities shut down entirely during Covid, leaving many women out of options regardless of income or support. This forced a large number of women, especially single mothers, out of the workforce. While households with children who miss school due to Covid-19 receive P-EBT benefits, the parent is still responsible for grocery shopping and food preparation.

Children suffered higher rates of food insecurity after school closures. Not only can the family’s primary source of income be effected, but schools are no longer providing regular meals. The mother is now faced with lack of childcare and the burden of providing and preparing extra meals during the day.

Both mothers and children experience disparities in health conditions tied to food insecurity. Proper nutritional intake not only effects a child’s current health, but also their mental, physical, and social development. The USDA has stated children from food insecure homes are more likely to suffer adverse outcomes, such as chronic health conditions, slower progress while learning in school, and more difficulties with social development.

Women are more likely than men to experience weight gain or obesity while food insecure, but at the same time are less likely to consume more than 50% of the recommended energy intake compared to food-secure women. This is often linked to the consumption of cheap, calorie-rich food.

The mental health of women also declines as food insecurity increases. It is not surprising that people lacking regular access to nutritious food show higher rates of depression and other mental health disorders. In turn, this can further reduce the stability of regular employment.

Social Programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are proven to reduce food insecurity. Research has shown that food insecure mothers who receive the benefits display improvements in both mental and physical health. Women, Infants and Children (WIC) further helps mothers with young children access proper nutrition and overall better health, but the dollars do not stretch far. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the estimated national average of SNAP benefits only amounts to roughly $5.78 per day ($1.93 per meal.)

We have recognized several levels of disparities regarding food insecurity in women, particularly women of color. Continuing research has shown positive improvements in health and livelihood for food insecure women with help from various public benefit programs, but the support is not enough to close the gap. In the spirit of equity and advocacy, we suggest a call to action for legislatures to increase funding for these initiatives.


The Benefits Cliff: Why some people can’t afford to get a raise

The Benefits Cliff:
Why some people can’t
afford to get a raise

Minimum wage hikes may not benefit families

if they lose more in public benefits

By Amber Wright, Development and Marketing

 

At the Foodbank, we often see people come through our Drive Thru for food while still dressed in work attire. They are employed, but still struggling to put food on the table after paying the bills. For many, paychecks just aren’t stretching far enough.

One solution that could alleviate this problem is to raise the federal minimum wage, which does provide a boost in income for workers earning the minimum wage. However, the issue is more complicated than it may first appear due to the way many public benefit programs are structured.

One issue, known as the “benefit cliff,” hurts most the workers making the least. This is where a person gains a small increase in income, which then causes them to lose some benefits from programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Section 8 housing vouchers, or other programs.  Employees can feel trapped by the system because wage increases do not actually improve their financial situation.

While there isn’t significant growth in their paycheck, they can suddenly find themselves with substantial bills for things such as housing, childcare, medical bills, grocery bills and more. They may now bring home less money overall because their paycheck is taxed, whereas their benefits were not. This financial predicament can be triggered by a pay increase as small as 25 cents an hour.

For example, imagine a working family is receiving SNAP benefits as well as Section 8 housing assistance. The head of household barely qualifies for SNAP assistance, and their employer offers them a $1.50 hourly raise, which would make them ineligible for SNAP and Section 8. If this household loses their Section 8 status, they will have to reapply to the program — which has average wait times up to 8 years depending on the city, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities – if their wages or hours are cut in the future.

At 40 hours a week, a $1.50 raise would only add $240 to the total monthly income before taxes. The Dayton Housing Authority last reported an average pay out for section 8 housing assistance in the area at $588 per month. That is $348 more than the increase in wages, even without factoring in taxes or the dollar amount lost with SNAP benefits.

Single parent families can be hit the hardest. Not only do they struggle with rent and basic utilities, but they are also confronted with rising childcare costs, school fees and extra mouths to feed – all on a single income. In cases like this, they often rely on public assistance to survive.

It’s not surprising that many people will turn down a raise, promotion, or extra hours/overtime to avoid this financial nightmare. It may seem like a paradox, but many people find that they can’t afford to get a raise.

Legislators and advocates are discussing solutions to this cliff effect. One idea that is already practiced in a few sectors is to taper benefits gradually instead of cutting off all assistance at once. Benefits would decrease at the same rate as wages increase, or even a little less as an added incentive to excel at work. This would provide a smoother transition to self-sufficiency in smaller, more manageable steps.

Another idea is combining the various benefit programs into a combined filing process, which would not only make applying quicker and easier for applicants, but also allow better insight into how these benefits work together in relation to recipient’s wage and other circumstances.

Currently, most public assistance programs are granted with their own separate requirements, such as documents proving eligibility, employment, or ongoing employment applications. Some programs may also require regular appointments with a case manager, attending job training or other classes. For someone needing or receiving multiple benefits, this can be difficult to juggle along with work, children, and household responsibilities.

The benefit cliff is already a problem many people face without changes to minimum wage, but we must consider how raising it might further exacerbate the issue. Each state implementing its own standard complicates things further.

The federal minimum wage is set at $7.25/hour, but on January 1st Ohio’s jumped 50 cents to $9.30/hour, which is higher than all but one adjacent state. Michigan also raised theirs with the New Year to $9.87/hour, while Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania remain at the federal minimum $7.25/hour. West Virginia kept theirs the same at $8.75/hour.

Some funding programs have already gone several years without considering factors such as these into the equation. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a basic block grant providing public assistance that has not been adjusted for changes such as population increase, inflation, or minimum wage hikes since it began 25 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, in fiscal year 2021, the TANF basic block grant was worth 40% less than its value in fiscal year 1997.

However, there are existing practices that do provide earning incentives. SNAP is one of the programs structured to ease the transition off public assistance. A “benefits phase-out” slowly decreases benefits as income grows so that the financial support doesn’t disappear all at once. The current rate allows recipients to bring home a higher total income even as their benefits decrease.

The SNAP program also shows preferential treatment to earned income over unearned income, such as social security or cash assistance. A family whose net income from employment matches that of a family only on assistance will be granted greater funds as an incentive to work.

Raising the federal minimum wage has the potential to aid many families in the United States, but it is not a simple fix. We also must ensure our public benefits programs are structured to support growth, incentivize work, and help families meet their basic needs as incomes increase.

2022 Minimum Wage by State

Alabama $7.25 / hour
Alaska $10.34 / hour
Arizona $12.80 / hour
Arkansas $11.00 / hour
California $14.00 / hour
Colorado $12.56 / hour
Connecticut $13.00 / hour
Delaware $10.50 / hour
Florida $10.00 / hour
Georgia $7.25 / hour
Hawaii $10.10 / hour
Idaho $7.25 / hour
Illinois $12.00 / hour
Indiana $7.25 / hour
Iowa $7.25 / hour
Kansas $7.25 / hour
Kentucky $7.25 / hour
Louisiana $7.25 / hour
Maine $12.75 / hour
Maryland $12.50 / hour
Massachusetts $14.25 / hour
Michigan $9.87 / hour
Minnesota $10.33 / hour
Mississippi $7.25 / hour
Missouri $11.15 / hour
Montana $9.20 / hour
Nebraska $9.00 / hour
Nevada $9.75 / hour
New Hampshire $7.25 / hour
New Jersey $13.00 / hour
New Mexico $11.50 / hour
New York $13.20 / hour
North Carolina $7.25 / hour
North Dakota $7.25 / hour
Ohio $9.30 / hour
Oklahoma $7.25 / hour
Oregon $12.75 / hour
Pennsylvania $7.25 / hour
Rhode Island $12.25 / hour
South Carolina $7.25 / hour
South Dakota $9.95 / hour
Tennessee $7.25 / hour
Texas $7.25 / hour
Utah $7.25 / hour
Vermont $12.55 / hour
Virginia $11.00 / hour
Washington $14.49 / hour
West Virginia $8.75 / hour
Wisconsin $7.25 / hour
Wyoming $7.25 / hour
Puerto Rico $8.50 / hour
District of Columbia $15.20 / hour
Federal $7.25 / hour

 

Source: Minimum Wage Rates by State 2022 (minimum-wage.org)


Food insecurity persists in rural America as economic recovery is slow to appear

Food insecurity persists in rural America as economic recovery is slow to appear

High unemployment, declining populations, and a lack of public transportation contribute to the rural-urban divide.

Written by: Emily Gallion, Grants & Advocacy Manager and Caitlyn McIntosh, Development Manager

In our cities, we see hunger every day. It looks like a huddle of people waiting for a pantry to open, or cracked hands holding a cardboard sign asking for money for food. It can even look like boards on the windows of a neighborhood’s last remaining grocery store.

Of the top 10 percent of US counties with the highest rates of food insecurity, 76 percent are rural. On average, 15 percent of households living in rural areas are food insecure, compared to 11.8 percent of people living in urban counties.

American economic recovery has made headlines recently: the national unemployment rate has dropped to 3.6% and the Dow Jones has reached record highs. However, economic growth has been patchy. While employment rates in metropolitan areas have surpassed pre-2008 levels, rural areas have not yet recovered.

While employment in metropolitan areas is 10 percent higher than it was in 2007, data from the Economic Research Service shows non metro areas still have not reached pre-recession levels.

The Foodbank serves three counties: Montgomery, Greene, and Preble. Montgomery County is considered an urban (or metropolitan) county. Preble County is a designated rural county. Greene County contains a mix of urban clusters and rural areas, and as a result is often categorized as a suburban or small-town county. Because rural-urban designations are made at the county level, overarching data can sometimes obscure the realities of the people who live in communities within them.

Within Preble county, 12% of adults and 18.8% of children are food insecure, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap. Households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity in general, but the trend is especially pronounced in rural communities.

A common theme when discussing rural hunger is the low population density and associated lack of resources. Rural areas have also seen population decreases as individuals move away- often termed “domestic migration.” While metropolitan areas experienced a population growth of over 6 percent from 2010 to 2018, according to American Community Survey data, the most rural areas saw decreases of almost 2 percent, which contributes to the ability of local businesses to remain open.

As a result of these population trends, in addition to difficulty affording food, people who are living in poverty in non-metropolitan areas often report challenges accessing food as grocery stores struggle to remain open.

Data from the Economic Revenue Service shows trends of employment and population growth in rural and urban areas

According to The Ohio State University’s Center for Farmland Policy Innovation (CFPI), 24 percent of residents of rural Ohio have to drive at least 10 minutes to purchase food from a retailer — including convenience stores and other sellers that rarely provide an adequate selection of fresh food. Stores in this category that do sell fresh food have a reputation for doing so at inflated prices.

Additionally, not every household living within driving distance of a retail grocery store has the means to get to it. Of the households living within driving distance from a store, five percent do not own a car, and public transportation is extremely uncommon in non-metro areas.

For example, our clients living in Lewisburg must make the 11 minute drive to a grocery store in Brookville, or even 15 minutes to one in Eaton. However, if you do not have a car then you are left with options from the local convenience store in town, because there is no public transportation available.

Grocery stores are not the only resources that are sparse in rural counties. Nearly one million children living in Ohio’s rural counties live with no access to a pediatrician. This translates to one in three children who have to travel at least 40 minutes to the nearest provider. According to American Community Survey data, 152,000 Ohio children live in a home without a vehicle.

This is especially concerning given the impact food insecurity can have on children’s health. Children who are food insecure face increased rates of obesity, more frequent colds and stomach aches, behavioral health problems, and even developmental problems. Coupled with increased distances from healthcare providers, food insecurity is potentially dangerous for these children.

Knowing the impact food insecurity can have on the health of both children and adults, The Foodbank has taken steps in recent years to increase the availability of food in the rural areas we serve. While we are located in Dayton, we are constantly trying to expand our reach.

In fiscal year 2017, our pantries served a total of 5,056 clients in Preble county. At the close of our most recent fiscal year, we had increased that number to 11,151.

Another program we are using to meet this need is our Mobile Farmers Markets, which distribute fresh food directly in areas we identify as high need. We host four distributions in Preble County each month. This February, our mobiles served 1,157 people in Preble county alone.

For more information on our mobiles, come back for our next blog post about our Mobile Farmers Markets. Have suggestions for what posts you want to see in the future? Learn something cool today? Let us know in the comments below!