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This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the War on Poverty and Wednesday, January 8th in particular marks the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s speech in which America’s War on Poverty was declared. National media and political figures have been weighing in on whether the War on Poverty has worked, is a “Mixed Bag”, or has missed the mark. The Budget and Tax Center will be launching a blog series this month which will look in depth into the lasting effects of the War on Poverty, its successes, and the challenges that still lie ahead. We’ll also be doing some must-read myth busting as it relates to income and poverty.

What we do know is that the poverty rate has declined since the War on Poverty was declared, and it has declined even more significantly when supplements such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are factored in. What we also know is that even as productivity of workers has increased, wages have stagnated for middle and low income families and inequality has continued to rise.

The War on Poverty and associated safety net programs, which have been a lifeline for millions of families, have done their job to the extent that we have let them. Going forward it is imperative to make adequate and real investments in the programs that we know work in lifting families out of poverty such as the EITC and SNAP, but also to tackle the broader issue of wage stagnation and inequality by ensuring, among other strategies, that we have a minimum wage that reflects the cost of living in the 21st century, and by taking a long hard look at the racial and class inequity that still plagues our nation and our state.

Food bankBefore you sit down to open presents or enjoy a holiday feast tomorrow or at some other point over the coming days, take a moment or two to read Sarah Ovaska’s Christmas Eve story over on the main Policy Watch site — it’s called “Hungry, with no end in sight.”

After you’ve done that, take a few more minutes to contemplate what it would be like to rely like Sylvia Cameron on a paltry sum in SNAP benefits (i.e. Food Stamps) and the charity of others just to survive and stay nourished each month.

Next, briefly ruminate on the fact that a shocking percentage of your neighbors are in just such a boat — the vast majority of them good, honest, working people (and a huge percentage children).

Finally, if you make it this far, take at least a moment to consider the fact that this situation — one that does not exist in many other modern nations — might just not be the fault of those who are hungry and, in fact, might be, at least in some small measure, all of our responsibility.

You can read Sarah’s article by clicking here.

 

 

Federal spending on the SNAP program—formally known as food stamps—is already declining as a share of the economy, according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  This is the case even though some critics, who claim that SNAP is growing out of control, are calling for deeper SNAP cuts as part of current congressional negotiations over the Farm Bill. These cuts would come on top of the cuts that took place earlier this month.

North Carolina has the fifth highest food insecurity rate in the nation, and cuts on top of cuts will create an even greater challenge for the 1 in 6 Tar Heel households that struggle with too few resources to meet their family’s nutritional needs.

As expected, there was a steep rise in SNAP spending due to the Great Recession—the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression during the 1930s—and the lagging recovery. However, this spending trend is reversing, with the decline in spending expected to accelerate over the next five years (see chart below). Read More

This Friday, approximately 1.7 million North Carolinians—including 51,000 veterans—will see their food assistance cut when a temporary boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits ends, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Such cuts will be another blow to Tar Heel families trying to make ends meet and get a foothold on the economic ladder. Of those receiving SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) in North Carolina, 85 percent are households with children, older adults, or people with disabilities (see this chart).

SNAP benefits are very modest now, with an average monthly benefit of $121.37 per person in North Carolina. The looming benefit cut will vary depending on family size, ranging from $36 a month for a family of four to $11 a month for a single person. These are deep cuts, equating to about 16 “thrifty” meals per month for a family of three, according to the CBPP report. Read More

In the latest issue of Prosperity Watch, Alexandra Sirota takes a look at food insecurity in North Carolina, and finds that far too many of our state’s residents don’t have enough food to eat. As a result, recent decisions by state government to temporarily halt critical food assistance programs due to the federal government shutdown placed thousands of families at risk of hunger–especially those living in rural North Carolina. See the latest Prosperity Watch for details.