A Little Bit of Good News

Most of the budget news we report tends to be bleak. Here’s some good news for Californians who are struggling in the current economic downturn. Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — aka the federal economic recovery bill — food stamp benefits are going up today. The maximum benefit will rise by 13.6 percent — that’s $80 per month more for a family of four. The federal bill will provide $1.5 billion in increased benefits, helping nearly 2.5 million low-income Californians each year. That’s money that will go to help put food on the tables of California’s families and help boost local economies.

The increased food stamp benefits are a critical component of the ARRA. Modeling of policy alternatives shows that increasing food stamp benefits provides the biggest “bang for the buck” of any alternative considered – a return of $1.73 in benefit for each $1.00 dollar spent. That’s because low-income people generally spend (rather than save) their available resources to meet basic needs such as shelter, food, and transportation. The gains from the added food stamp benefits will ripple through the entire economy. When a family uses its food stamp benefits to shop at a local grocery, this helps the grocer pay his employees and purchase more from his suppliers. That, in turn, helps the suppliers pay their employees (as well as the truckers who deliver their products), and so on.

— Jean Ross

2 thoughts on “A Little Bit of Good News

  1. The cruel twist on this good news is that in California, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients are ineligible for food stamps. Yes, California is the only state to exclude these very low income aged, blind and disabled citizens from accessing the food stamp benefit that is available to income-eligible people of all ages. This is especially cruel now, when SSI/SSP grant levels are about to be cut – first in May when the individual grant level falls by $37 a month, then in July when another $20 is cut. Together, these cuts will bring California’s SSI recipient incomes significantly below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. And just a reminder: SSI recipient’s incomes are capped at the grant level. That is, if an aged, blind or disabled SSI recipient were able to find another source of income, his or her SSI grant level would be dropped to take into account the new income – soon to be $850 a month! In Alameda County, we fear for the survival of our 54,000 residents who depend on SSI. An elderly lady told me last week, “$37 is more than a week’s worth of food; what are we going to do?”

  2. i am a recipient of ssi and i am very upset about the cuts that are about to take effect. how is it we are expected to buy groceries, pay for prescriptions,pay our rent and still buy gas and afford our utilities and any incidentals we might need. it’s rediculous. we are even more needy than the people who already recieve them and yet we are overlooked. and the cuts to our monthly check are going to carve out whatever little extra we have if indeed we do have any extra. it’s disgusting.

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