McCormack Speaks

March 17, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
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The Future of Food Stamps

by Anonymous, a McCormack Graduate School student

groceriesWithin the United States there has been an increasing level of opposition regarding one of the most important government programs for those in need, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP benefits are managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by state agencies. Within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Transitional Assistance provides this food assistance to low-income households. SNAP benefits are essential in bridging the gap for those with low income, part-time employees, the elderly, the disabled, and other households in need.

Twenty years ago, welfare reform passed, transforming the welfare entitlement program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into the grant program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), TAFDC in Massachusetts. TANF gives states flexibility in the ways in which they allocate grant money and set the program eligibility standards. In fact, states can raise standards to decrease program eligibility and use funds for other approved programs.

Similarly, SNAP has become a target for reform, just as AFDC was leading up to welfare reform. However, unlike AFDC and TANF, SNAP benefits are specifically for food. It is SNAP’s status as an entitlement program that guarantees all of those who meet the federal qualifications will be provided with food assistance benefits, regardless of the federal budget. Food and water are basic necessities of life – an entitlement.

The current administration and the Republican-majority Congress have been working to revamp the SNAP program. Allegations of widespread fraud by non-citizens, the addicted, and the “lazy”  fuel their plans. Additionally, the increased numbers of program participants and resulting increases in the federal SNAP budget are seen as examples of a ballooning budget and further waste of taxpayers’ money. The proposed solution includes annual budget cuts for SNAP that would lead to its transformation from an entitlement to a grant program by as soon as 2021.

President Trump and our Congress should focus on the socioeconomic reasons that create influxes in clients needing SNAP, not on the program itself. Heavy reliance on SNAP represents an assortment of other problems including, but not limited to, low minimum wage, housing costs, education, and additional socioeconomic factors.

SNAP provides an essential resource to those in need. It is essential that these proposals to revamp it be stopped. Although I am not worried about the way in which Massachusetts would allocate resources, it is the future of food assistance within other parts of the country that is in jeopardy.

SNAP, a product of Lydon B. Johnson’s Great Society and earlier pilot programs initiated by John F. Kennedy, is a safety net depended upon by our friends, families, and fellow Americans.  Policymakers must keep this in mind when altering this program.

Anonymous is a SNAP supporter and studies public administration at UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.

Please address any comments to Professor Christine Brenner, if you would like the writer to receive them: Christine.brenner@umb.edu

 

February 14, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
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Getting to a New Normal: Reflections on Resilience Following Hurricane Matthew

A guest blog by J. Cedric Woods, PhD
Director, Institute for New England Native American Studies, UMass Boston

Aftermath of Hurricane MatthewGrowing up in Robeson County, North Carolina, particularly as a Lumbee Indian, I always knew the Lumber River, our river, was the dominant part of our landscape. It shaped a significant part of our history, serving as a source of food, recreation, and refuge during times of war.

I also knew that as heavily as we relied on it, it had the potential to cause great distress as well. I had seen it flood its banks and some of our roads as a child, and knew that it earned its older name “Drowning Creek.”

However, none of this prepared me for what I experienced in October 2016 with Hurricane Matthew. Continue Reading →

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