June 3, 2009

Food stamp expansion bill passes!

Yesterday, along with the rest of the budget, the DC City Council passed legislation that will significantly expand the eligibility for and amount of food stamp assistance in the District. The Food Stamp Expansion Act of 2009 will help thousands of poor DC families while also bringing millions of federal dollars into the city.

This bill was basically a no-brainer, and it passed with unanimous support. But the real leadership on the issue came from Councilmember Michael Brown. Our sincere thanks go out to Councilmember Brown (as well as Councilmember Tommy Wells, who also led on this issue).

As we’ve reported here before, the food stamp expansion will eliminate the program’s “asset cap” of $2,000, which previously meant that families would have to spend down their savings before qualifying for assistance. Through a measure called “Heat and Eat,” the act also automatically enrolls all food stamp participants in a utility assistance program that, in turn, increases the amount of food stamps that they can receive. And most notably, the Act raises the qualifying level of income to 200% of the Federal Poverty Line--up from the previous level of 130%.

Independently, these policy changes might seem incremental. But they will compound with the recent (and major) increase in food stamp assistance levels from the federal stimulus bill. As a result, $15 to $21 million in new federal funding will be brought to our low-income residents. (And the entire city benefits from that influx of food assistance, as these stamps will generate approximately $25 to $35 million in local economic activity.)

When news of this policy change spread among Bread for the City staff, I heard a common reaction: there are lots of opportunities in DC for policy to extend more forms of assistance to more people, but it takes time, focus, and engagement with our elected officials to make even simple no-brainer changes happen.

So on that note: our "Next Most Promising Low Hanging Fruit" contest is still open! Point out the next big (or even small) win, lay out the road map to change, and you will receive a copy of the 2009 Food Stamp Expansion Bill signed by YOUR FAVORITE X-MAN. Contact me with your submission. (Check here and here for inspiration.) Si se puede!

No comments: