The facts are shocking. In the U.S. today, 1 in 7 Americans―more than 46 million people, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors―rely on food pantries and food kitchens to eat.
Of the households trying to stave off hunger,
- 4% have someone in their home in active military service.
- 34% have at least one member working.
- 55% have unpaid medical bills.
- 66% have stopped buying medicine in order to eat.
- 80% buy cheaper, unhealthier food.
These are just some of the research findings from Hunger in America 2014 conducted by Feeding America, a national hunger relief charity. While the study is not Maine-specific, there is ample evidence that thousands of Mainers are also going hungry.
Further, the study’s findings offer a disturbing look at employment, especially in light of Governor LePage’s recent proposal to enforce work requirements on people receiving food assistance.
Maine is not exempt from the national trend of working households that are still going hungry. We need to do more to make higher education and job training affordable and accessible to give our workers better job skills. We also need to ramp up job attraction efforts to bring in better-paying, higher quality jobs to Maine.
But more telling is that almost one-quarter (24.1%) of food pantry clients are unemployed and looking for work or have stopped their job search because jobs simply aren’t available. This is true in Maine as well; where we have not recovered all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, let alone added new ones.
It is bad enough that so many people must rely on shelters and soup kitchens and shop at food pantries. Now Governor LePage wants to cut off their federal food assistance. Under his latest proposal, unless they are working or volunteering 20 hours per week, thousands of Mainers could lose Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) food assistance. This act will force even more people to food pantries that according to the Maine Hunger Initiative are already overburdened.
In states like Maine where low wages, unemployment, and underemployment likely force people to seek out food assistance, it makes no sense to pile on additional work requirements; especially ones that they are unlikely to fulfill in today’s job market.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will hold a public hearing tomorrow on proposed work requirements for food assistance. You can speak in person at the hearing or send in written comments.
Testify in person:
When: Wednesday, August 20th at 2:00 p.m.
Where: DHHS Conference Room 110, 19 Union Street in Augusta
Submit written comments by August 31st to:
Department of Health and Human Services
Office of Family Independence
Attn: Patricia Dushuttle, Special Projects Manager
11 State House Station, 19 Union Street
Augusta, Maine 04333-0011
Let’s all tell the governor that his work requirement is a bad idea unless and until jobs are available for Mainers who need them.