According to the USDA, as of June 2013 there were 362,203 persons in Nevada receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps). That would be 362,203 out of a total state population of 2,758,931. The population of the state increased by about 2.2% from April 2010 to April 2012. So, the 13.1% of Nevadans currents receiving SNAP help is in line with the 12.9% reported by the Census as living below the poverty line between 2007 and 2010.
The Food Research & Action Center compiled such county statistics as it could in 2009 and reported the following numbers for Nevada counties. (pdf) Lyon County had 3,153 SNAP recipients, (6% of the total population), and 9,095 of its population having incomes 125% under the federal poverty level. Douglas County had 1,575 recipients, 4,207 people in the county were living on less than 125% of the FPL. Washoe County shows 29,018 receiving SNAP assistance, and 59,569 earning less than 125% of the FPL. Elko County had 2,210 recipients, and 4,286 living on 125% under the FPL. Carson City had 5,004 recipients, and 9,153 below 125% of the FPL. Nye County added 6,085 recipients to the rolls, and 8,838 living at below 125% of the FPL. Churchill County had 2,429 recipients, and 3,485 living below 125% of the FPL. In Clark County there were 163,806 recipients, and 260,772 living under 125% of the FPL.
These numbers are people, real people who are eligible for SNAP assistance, and the eligibility and benefits shake out as follows:
“SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013).” [FeedingAm]
The average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $133.85, or less than $1.50 per person, per meal. Only 57% of food insecure individuals are income-eligible for SNAP, and 26% are not income-eligible for any federal food assistance. [FeedingAm]
If these sound like “large” numbers getting public assistance to put food on the table, consider that Nevada has a low participation rate to begin with, as of December 2012, the USDA reported:
“Some States had consistently low participation rates relative to other States. California, Colorado, New Jersey, Nevada, Texas, and Wyoming had significantly lower rates than two-thirds of the States in all 3 fiscal years.” [USDA pdf]
So, there are about 362,203 recipients of food assistance in Nevada, not nearly the number who might be in need of help. They are getting about $1.50 per person per meal, and many people who need more help putting nutritious food on the family table don’t meet the stringent income requirements for eligibility.
Who are these people — other than numbers on spreadsheets? The USDA reports characteristics of the recipients in its latest report (pdf).
“Seventy six percent of SNAP households included either a child or an elderly or disabled person, and these households received 84 percent of all benefits. Households with children received a relatively large average monthly SNAP benefit ($419), reflecting their larger household size. The average household with children had 3.3 people compared with an average of 1.1 people for households without children. A majority (56 percent) of SNAP households with children were single adult households.” (emphasis added)
If we extrapolate this to the Nevada participation figures, we have approximately 275,274 SNAP recipients in families with a child, a disabled, and/or an elderly person, and these families would receive 84% of all the benefits allocated.
We might also want to consider veterans and members of military families. First, there are far too many young military families whose financial circumstance make them eligible:
“The base pay of most recent enlistees — from corporals on down — is at or below the $23,050 poverty rate for a family of four. The military, which counts housing allowances, tax advantages and bonuses in its own accounting of pay, estimates the average junior enlisted member earns about $43,000.
HuffPost looked at data provided by the Defense Commissary Agency — which serves a wide range of military members, including retirees — and concluded that commissary customers have redeemed $101 million worth of food stamps since June 2011.” [HuffPo] (emphasis added)
Secondly, Census data estimates that there are 1.5 million households nation-wide in which a veteran is receiving SNAP benefits.
And so, at 6:07 p.m. in Washington, D.C. the roll was called in the House of Representatives on H.R. 3102, the deceptively titled “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act” which lobbed some $39 billion from the SNAP program.
Who was concerned about those 362,203 Nevadans? Not Representatives Amodei (R-NV2) and Heck (R-NV3) — they both voted in favor of the draconian cuts in the nutrition assistance program. [roll call 476] Representatives Horsford (D-NV4) and Titus (D-NV1) voted against this assault on those families with children, the elderly, and the disabled.
There are no reasons for Amodei or Heck’s votes — there are only rationalizations and excuses. Perhaps they’d like to beat the old “too much trafficking” in the SNAP program long debunked horse laugh.
The fact is: “Due to increased oversight and improvements to program management by USDA, the trafficking rate has fallen significantly over the last two decades, from about 4 cents on the dollar in 1993 to about 1 cent in 2006-08.”
Perhaps they’ve adopted the specious argument that public assistance makes people dependent on Big Government. This argument only works IF it is underpinned by the notion that people are lazy by nature, and willing to be “takers” from the “makers.” Reminder: Ayn Rand wrote FICTION. Most people living in poverty now are WORKING at low or minimum wage jobs. Really want to cut the number of persons eligible for SNAP participation? — then enact a Living Wage Act.
But, but, but … what about those Small Business Owners who need relief from taxation (and social safety net programs)? Well, consider the owner of a grocery store. As of May 2012 approximately 10% of national grocery store revenue was coming in the form of SNAP benefit redemptions. [FoodPolicy] In an economic sector in which the profit margin ranges from 4.8% in the best locations and times, and more often approaches 1%, this is no small consideration. Thus much for supporting small business.
No, there aren’t any reasons for supporting H.R. 3102 — only the narrow, constricted, selfish, and self-obsessed perspective of those who have forgotten that government is our way of helping the “neighbors we don’t know.” Those who have rather completely forgotten:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” [Matthew 25]