Taking groceries from the poor
Posted by MilesCity.com Webmaster (+9886) 5 years ago
One of the worst ideas of the 2015 Legislature has been a proposal to cut the number of low-income Montanans eligible for federal food assistance. That cut has been approved by a Senate committee with four Republicans (David Howard, Cary Smith, Nels Swandal and Fred Thomas) supporting the cut and three Democrats (Mary Caferro, Diane Sands and Jonathan Windy Boy) voting against it.

An earlier Gazette opinion asking lawmakers to kill Senate Bill 206 pointed out that it would take food away from low-income, unemployed Montanans while increasing the state’s administrative costs and giving up the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program money that is spent in Montana grocery stores.

The editorial incorrectly stated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides half of SNAP food aid. In fact, USDA provides 100 percent of that aid. The state of Montana has to cover half of the program’s administrative costs, which usually equals about 5 percent of the food aid. So the loss in grocery money proposed by SB206 is twice as bad as we thought.

“Every SNAP dollar spent generates $1.74 in economic impact in the community,” Kevin Concannon, under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, told The Gazette this week.

With USDA working to stop fraud and overpayments, SNAP is one of the federal government’s most efficient programs, Concannon said. Less than 2.8 percent of SNAP recipients are overpaid, and less than 1.3 percent of SNAP benefits are sold or used for non-food purchases.

SNAP is particularly important in Montana, a low-wage state where many residents have seasonal jobs, and annual periods of unemployment.

Montana food banks and other charities oppose SB206 because it would take food away from low-income Montanans and increase demand on already stretched private sources. A month’s worth of SNAP doesn’t provide a month’s worth of groceries.

Let your senator know you don’t want food withheld from your low-income neighbors