February 11, 2014

Honesty On Hunger

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I’d like to introduce the Boone Clause into the public discourse.

In November, after a temporary financial boost from the Recovery Act expired, some 47 million Americans lost a portion of their food stamps, one of the nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs.

Those cuts, along with the effects of sequestration, which one study called a “slowly growing cancer,” have amounted to a bomb dropped on the most vulnerable families in Connecticut – most of whom are headed by women.

Couple that with: Women are roughly twice as likely as men to rely on food stamps at some point in their lives. But it’s not just women who are suffering. It’s the children who depend on them.

If I had a talent for sewing – any at all – I would make sure that every elected official had the Boone Clause embroidered on a pillow placed in their well-appointed offices. The Boone Clause comes from Nancy Boone, of the Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs, a Hartford-based non-profit concerned with issues and symptoms of poverty in the state. She describes the results of cutbacks and the sequestration thus:

“I wish we would call people on their words when they talk about these things,” Boone said. “When you say you’re ‘cutting food stamps’ what you’re really doing is creating hunger.’’

“You’re not cutting food stamps. You’re creating hunger.”

I couldn’t have said it better, myself.

Call the results of the divisive political climate what they are. It’s not a cutback. It’s creating poverty for Connecticut’s families.  Cutbacks aren’t just theory. They’re blood and bone, skin and teeth.

Jacqueline Guadalupe is a single mother of two who bought a house in Hartford a year and a half ago. Then last June, she lost her job as a school secretary. Since then, she’s steadily looked to find a job (if you’re hiring and looking for an efficient, well-spoken, employee, I can put you in touch with her). She started by applying for office work, but at this point, “I am applying for anything,” she says. “I tell my friends that as long as it’s not illegal, as long as it’s not prostitution, I will take it.”

She has also been going back and forth between offices to try to line up food stamps and health insurance, and financial aid to keep her house. She’s been put on hold to state agencies for as long as three hours at a time. She’s ricocheted between offices where no one could help her. At age 40, she’s enrolled in Charter Oak State College. She knows she needs a bachelor’s degree, and – though the fates look like they’re conspiring against her — she knows she needs to keep her credit score up. If she loses the house, she will need good credit in order to find a decent apartment.

“I am a responsible person,” Guadalupe says. “But I have to keep that number up.”

A recent compromise on the much-discussed Farm Bill cuts $8 billion from the food stamp program – known as SNAP, as opposed to the $40 billion cut suggested by the Republicans last year.

It’s not a pretty compromise, and while Congress dithered, families like Guadalupe’s went wanting. A December report from Legal Momentum said that single mothers in the United States work more hours but have higher poverty rates than their contemporaries in other affluent countries.

And things aren’t getting any better. We’d be a whole lot better remembering the Boone Clause.

You heard it here first.

 

 

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