It’s Time To Restore Some Balance To The State’s Policies

We’re not often in agreement with Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, particularly in her seemingly endless series of lawsuits and spats with President Donald Trump and the federal government.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day, and James is right to oppose several proposed federal changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Current rules allow people eligible for other public assistance programs to automatically be enrolled in SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, something the president and his administrative team are trying to change. James is also fighting the federal government’s efforts to eliminate a long-standing policy known as “broad based categorical eligibility” that allows states to consider local economic factors like high costs of living or costs of childcare when determining eligibility for SNAP. She has also fought changes to work rules that would have removed benefits from 700,000 people starting April 1.

Restrictive changes to the SNAP program make no sense given what is happening to the local and state economy. While this fight is taking place in Albany and Washington, D.C., this issue is local. The Salvation Army recently told The Post-Journal that the agency served 300 more households than it usually does in March. Chautauqua County Rural Ministries, meanwhile, told The Post-Journal that it has seen a 75% increase in use of its soup kitchen since Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched his NY On Pause shutdown — and 41% of its meals served in March were to those who had lost their job and income due to COVID-19.

Two things should happen, in concert with each other. Republicans in Congress should consider joining with their Democratic frenemies to temporarily ease SNAP or other safety net eligibility rules in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to ease the strain on those who have had their jobs and livelihoods snatched from them by COVID-19.

Second, every effort must be made by local, state and federal officials to restore economic activity so that these arguments over SNAP benefits are rendered mute. Elizabeth Margarito, Salvation Army emergency basic needs supervisor, rightly noted that many of the people who are relying on her agency are people who need help even though they had been working a part-time job or two before those jobs vanished. Taxpayers, the primary funders of the state and federal governments, can’t afford to write blank checks for SNAP and other safety net programs. That means we must redouble our efforts to make places like New York state attractive to businesses in a sector other than the service industry.

If Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t want to feel singled out by President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell for the state’s progressive leanings, it’s time to restore some balance to the state’s policies so that job creators can return to the state.


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