New Maine Reports Highlight Need for Strong Food Stamp and SCHIP Programs and Responsible Budget

(Augusta, ME)  Two new reports highlight some of the difficulties faced by Maine low-income families and emphasize the need for strong Farm Bill and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization in addition to a responsible federal budget that prioritizes domestic programs that lift those working families out of poverty.

Partners in Ending Hunger working with the Alliance to End Hunger today released the results of a food insecurity survey they conducted in Cumberland County and Portland.  Results show that 11.8% of households are food insecure in Cumberland County.  This is just above the national average of 11.4% and just below the state average of 12.3%.  In contrast, 20.7% of households in the City of Portland were food insecure.

The Maine Children’s Alliance today released their Maine Kids Count report for 2007.  Even though Maine continues to perform better than the nation on many measures of child wellbeing, there are still 21,000 Maine children without health insurance, almost 40,000 children 18 and under living in poverty, over 57,000 children receiving food stamps, over 40,000 women and children receiving assistance through the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) nutritional program and over 12,000 Maine children eligible for the Head Start program.

As Maine families work to lift themselves out of poverty and meet their basic needs they depend on critical programs like the Food Stamp Program, SCHIP, and a number of other domestic programs to give them a leg up.

Food Stamp Program:

  •     Helps over 160,000 Maine residents buy food each month
  •     Pumped approximately $170 million into the Maine economy last year
  •     80% of benefits went to households with children

State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP):

  •     Provides matching funds for over 14,500 children on Mainecare
  •     Helped achieve one of the lowest child uninsured rates in the country (7%)

Other Domestic Programs:

  •     Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – provides heating fuel assistance for low-income families
  •     Head Start – serving development needs of low income children ages 5 and under
  •     Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutritional program – nutritional food supplements for low-income women and children 5 and younger

Congress has been presented funding proposals by the administration for these and other programs.  Within are cuts that would compromise these programs from meeting the needs of Maine’s low-income families.  It is critical that Maine’s congressional delegation present better alternatives that honor the priorities of Mainers and that do the following:

  •     Improve the adequacy of the od Stamp Program benefits that on average deliver $0.98 per person per meal in Maine
  •     Expand eligibility of the Food Stamp Program to capture more of Maine’s “working poor”
  •     Reduce access barriers to the program that discourage many eligible people (many seniors) from participating
  •     Ensure that the focus of the Nutritional Title of the Farm Bill is to deliver food to those in need
  •     Fully fund the SCHIP program and fill the current shortfall in Maine
  •     Expand coverage of the SCHIP program to reduce even more the number of uninsured children in Maine
  •     Oppose proposed cuts to domestic programs like LIHEAP ($25.9 million over the next 5 years in Maine), Head Start ($10.2 million over the next 5 years in Maine), and WIC ($1.8 million over the next 5 years in Maine).

“These two reports really highlight the need for these and other important federal programs for low-income families in Maine,” said Ed Cervone, policy analyst for the Maine Center for Economic Policy.  “Maine is fortunate to have a congressional delegation that works hard for those Mainers at risk and once again we ask them to fight for our priorities and help deliver proposals that meet Maine’s needs.”