You have to read today’s WashPo story on food stamps in RIMarch 17th, 2013 at 10:44 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
Food stamps – or “SNAP,” the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, as it’s been renamed – has been getting a lot of attention in Rhode Island lately. That isn’t too surprising when you consider 17% of the state’s entire population – 179,127 Rhode Islanders – were enrolled in the program as of December, receiving a combined $25.1 million in benefits that month.
There are names, faces and stories behind those numbers, The Washington Post’s Eli Saslow vividly shows in a must-read story this morning that discusses how food stamps provide a vital economic lifeline for “the broke residents of a nearly bankrupt town” – Woonsocket:
The economy of Woonsocket was about to stir to life. Delivery trucks were moving down river roads, and stores were extending their hours. The bus company was warning riders to anticipate “heavy traffic.” A community bank, soon to experience a surge in deposits, was rolling a message across its electronic marquee on the night of Feb. 28: “Happy shopping! Enjoy the 1st.”
In the heart of downtown, Miguel Pichardo, 53, watched three trucks jockey for position at the loading dock of his family-run International Meat Market. For most of the month, his business operated as a humble milk-and-eggs corner store, but now 3,000 pounds of product were scheduled for delivery in the next few hours. He wiped the front counter and smoothed the edges of a sign posted near his register. “Yes! We take Food Stamps, SNAP, EBT!”
“Today, we fill the store up with everything,” he said. “Tomorrow, we sell it all.”
At precisely one second after midnight, on March 1, Woonsocket would experience its monthly financial windfall — nearly $2 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
It’s a gripping piece. Read the whole article here.
Rhode Island used to lag other states in getting eligible residents to actually sign up for the food stamp program, but a push by the Bush and Carcieri administrations in the mid-2000s changed that significantly, as I reported in this 2010 WPRI.com story (when less than 14% of residents were enrolled).
In Rhode Island, SNAP is run by the Department of Human Services, which came under fire last week for its payment-error rate of 7.56%, more than double its target of 3%. The benefits themselves are federally funded – and thus they’re effectively a cross-border subsidy from more prosperous states to struggling Rhode Island.