Repackaging and doubling down on bad ideas doesn’t make them good ones, and that’s what Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s proposal (pdf) today tries to do. This time, instead of just making Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a block grant, Rep. Ryan proposes to take eleven safety net programs, including SNAP, and make them into one block grant program available to states with few minimum standards except harsh conditions for beneficiaries that Rep. Ryan favors.
Ironically, the weakness of programs converted into block grants – over time they are shrunk, lose support, become less helpful, and become more vulnerable to attack – is put into clear relief by Rep. Ryan’s companion proposal. He would expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to childless workers (a good step), but pay for it by eliminating the Title XX Social Services Block Grant, as well as other low-income programs, including two nutrition programs, the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) for children and the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).
The nation needs to tackle hunger and poverty: by improving economic outcomes for families in the workforce through better wages, benefits and supports like EITC; by improving SNAP so people have more resources to purchase healthy food, and by strengthening the child nutrition programs so children have access to food both in and out of school. That is the solution to expanding opportunity and reducing poverty. Weakening key programs that support working and unemployed adults, children and seniors is not.
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