You have recently supported bills that puts the burden of the economy on the backs to the most needy, the reduction of the SNAP funds, the reduction of funds for pre-school education and the proposed HR 3434 which blocks temporary aid to families under certain conditions.
What have you supported that puts the burden of the economy on those who have earnings of over $500,000?
The above question was one of three that I brought to Rep. Reed’s Town Hall Meeting at Bath November 16. I wanted to point out that legislation he voted for really did put the burden of the economy on his poorest constituents. I also wanted to know if I missed legislation that had high earners helping the economy.
There were a lot of questions handed into Rep. Reed’s District Director Joe Sempolinski. Joe spread them out on a table at the front of the Bath Village Court Room, putting letters on similar issues together. Surprisingly, about 25 minutes into the meeting, Joe chose my letter and read it to Tom and the group gathered at the meeting. Luckily I video taped the meeting so I have the dialogue of Rep. Reed’s answer to my question:
Reed: The question mentioned SNAP. We reduced the SNAP money, by, um $39 billion dollars, right, as scored by the CBO (Congressional Budget Office), ok. I get a-a-l-l-l-l of these people calling in saying “How can you do that. How can you take away $39 billion dollars of people who are on Food Stamps? So then, I ask those same people, “Well do you know what the $39 billion reduction is?”
“No, it’s a number, it’s just less money going out the door.”
OK, $20 billion…comes from a a simple reform in the food stamp program that I believe is a common sense reform. And it says, Able bodied people without kids would have to have a job, go to school, volunteer in the community as they receive food stamps. Why is that important common sense to me? Because what you’re doing is that you are empowering people to get a tool, or encouraging them to get a job. So they can get a tool to get job, or get a job that gets some out of the program. And that is $20 billion out of the $39 billion. And I said, “What is wrong with that? Can anybody tell me what is wrong with that?”
Lady in the audience: “There are no jobs.”
Reed: “So you can volunteer.”
Man in the audience: “There is no proper child care.”
Reed: “These are people with out kids.”
Reed: These are able-bodied people without kids.
ME: Isn’t this the law now in New York?
Reed: No. Not for food stamps. It is for Tanf [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] and other provisions like that, but that is another issue. And that gets to the remaining portion of the reductions.
We have programs that are in silos when it comes to our welfare programs, our social welfare programs and they don’t coordinate with each other. So Tanf, which is cash welfare, has work requirements. Food Stamps, which is another form of social welfare, does not. LiHeap, which is low income heating, there is essentially no requirements there. So, and then WIC [Women, Infant, Children] has a whole nother set of requirements and other restrictions.
(The conversation goes on about the lack of communication between agencies, etc.)
Did you notice that my original question was never answered? Not only was it never answered, there was no attempt to even mention the $500,000 income earners. Joe, when he chose my question, was drawn to it because he saw it as a talking point Reed knows well. It’s like batting practice with warm up pitcher Joe lobbing easy pitches to batter Reed to hit out of the park.
Did you notice my second question–the one in bold print–“Isn’t this the law now in New York?” Twice Reed told the audience there was no work requirements to receive SNAP funds. THAT IS FALSE. I first checked the websites of the counties in our congressional district, and many have information about the work requirements. Here is the information from the Schuyler County website:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Eligibility
SNAP is a federally funded program administered by local Social Services for the United State Department of Agriculture. Eligibility is based on income and resource standards for family size and life situation, and there are work requirements for some people. Owning a home is not an issue, and there are no liens put on residential property. View income standards.
I believe that counties in New York State have the same SNAP requirement. You may want to check out your country’s website to see what it says about your Department of Social Services. Remember it is the county’s decision how much detail they place on their website.
The ‘some people’ mentioned in the article, and by Rep. Reed, are the officially called “Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents,”or “ABAWD”.
According to Amy Miller, Commissioner of the Yates County Department of Social Services, every ABAWD has to fill out a work registration form and has to search for work, similar to those who receive unemployment payments. SNAP recipients may be required to go to job training sessions.
Commissioner Miller provided to the Yates County Legislature a report that contained the following information (the bold font was added):
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
This is a Federal Government Program designed to supplement food purchases.
There are 1,248 active SNAP Cases (2,379 individuals). There were 1,011 new applications for SNAP last year. SNAP recipients are required to work unless they have a child under the age of five. All but 29 cases [note: this represents 2% of active YC’s Active SNAP cases] have a child under 5 or are working. The cost of the program is 100% Federally Funded. In 2012 $1,875, 122 in SNAP benefits were spent in Yates County businesses.”
What did I have learned from the meeting in Bath?
- Since Rep. Reed did not answer my question about burdening those who earn $500,000 or higher to help improve our economy, I have to assume the answer is “No, I have not supported a bill that puts any economic burden on people who earn $500,000 or more.”
- Rep. Reed uses the Town Hall Meetings not as a way to answer our questions, but, like a magician, he uses them to turn questions into talking point topics. He doesn’t give you the whole story, just the points he wants you to know.
- In this case he told the audience that there are no work requirements for “Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents” to receive SNAP (aka Food Stamps) benefits. The audience, many probably already have disdain towards SNAP users, believed him. Unfortunately, Reed’s misinformation may have given some people more unfounded reasons to despise SNAP users.
- In reality there is a work requirement for those who do not have dependent children. When a newspaper prints an error, they correct it. Rep. Reed doesn’t.
- The sad realism is that we can not trust Rep. Reed; he needs to be constantly fact-checked. We need to have someone in congress who is uniter, not a divider.
- Charity can’t pick up the food stamp slack: Editorial (nj.com)
- Lamm: In defense of SNAP (denverpost.com)
- Should a Drug Conviction Mean a Lifetime Ban on Welfare and Food Stamps? (psmag.com)