As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Food Stamp Increases Can Give California's Economy A Boost

The rollout of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act continues with this very good piece of public policy.

California food stamp recipients will receive 13.6% more benefits thanks to the federal economic stimulus package, the state Department of Social Services announced Wednesday.

The increase, effective immediately, was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, approved by Congress and signed by President Obama in February.

John Wagner, the state social services director, said in a statement that the increase "will dramatically help families, while also boosting California's economy in ways that benefit grocers, food manufacturers and growers."

The average monthly food stamp benefit received by about 2.5 million Californians will increase from $300 to $341 per household. State food stamp rolls are expected to increase by 300,000 this year, officials said.

The federal stimulus package also provided $22 million in administrative funding for the state food stamp program, and 10 million pounds of food for food banks and pantries that serve low-income Californians through the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program.

Food stamp money is almost immediately spent. It's among the most effective forms of stimulus there is, with each dollar generating $1.73 in economic activity. Combined with the one-time $250 payment to anyone in the Social Security system, which is also very likely to get spent, these actions will provide a short-term boost to the economy, especially in California, which has an older population than other states.

Gloria Molina is trying to extend the benefit to those who have lost their jobs:

Earlier this week, in an effort to help unemployed middle-class workers who do not qualify for government aid, L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina proposed that the county pursue temporary state and federal waivers of eligibility requirements for cash aid, food stamps and housing benefits.

"As more and more people lose their jobs and search in vain for new ones in a shrinking job market, many families are finding themselves, often for the first time, with inadequate funds to pay their rent or mortgage, keep their utilities and provide food for their children," Molina said Tuesday, citing an article in The Times last week.

Molina noted that each month, food stamp applications are denied for more than 19,000 county residents, and 7,000 applicants are denied benefits under CalWorks, a welfare program for families.

The middle-class needs for aid have gone up dramatically in the state over the past six months. Particularly in our areas in Depression, the crisis is very wide and broad. Until the economy recovers, and as a means for it to recover, these actions at the federal level can at least cushion the blow.

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