There are a lot of challenging places to live in our country, but I would argue one of the toughest is the space between abject poverty and a sustainable livelihood. Imagine making enough money that you didn’t “qualify” for many forms of help, but still not being able to meet your family’s basic needs.

We have thousands of people in our community stuck in this economic dead zone, and a new proposed policy aimed at restricting eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has these folks squarely in its cross hairs. The proposal aims to limit SNAP participation to people at 130 percent of the federal poverty line or below with limited exceptions.

“I mean, if they are above the poverty line, they probably don’t need benefits … right?”

I truly wish it were that simple. This comment during a recent conversation reminds me of how challenging this topic this is and how poor a metric the Federal Poverty Line can be.

The Federal Poverty line was never designed to be the sole measure of poverty in the United States, it was designed to be the agreed upon starting point as the absolute lowest income possible for meeting basic needs. The Poverty Line is the floor … not the ceiling. Currently the Poverty Line for a family of four is $25,750 a year, roughly $6 an hour for two adults working full time. We all know that is nowhere near enough to make ends meet in our community, yet more than 32,000 of our neighbors in Dakota County try to make it through each month living on less.

Dakota County officials estimate that the true cost to live in our community is more than two and a half times the national poverty line. That means a family of four needs to earn just over $65,000, around $15 an hour for two adults working full time, to meet their basic needs.

In working class wages, it’s a long way between $25,000 a year and $65,000 a year. For the families working hard to make that journey out of poverty to a sustainable life, these cuts would pull the rug out from under them as they work to make their final steps. Cutting benefits for these families is as counterproductive as it is shortsighted.

We ought do all we can to help families escape poverty, and SNAP has a remarkable track record of doing just that. SNAP is by all measures an effective program. Multiple studies laud SNAP’s effectiveness at helping families not only have enough food each month, but work their way out of poverty and into a more stable life. More than 3 million people were lifted out of poverty through SNAP participation in 2017 alone. Plus, every $1 invested in SNAP creates $1.79 in economic impact in our local community, meaning direct participants aren’t the only ones who will feel the impact of these cuts.

At The Open Door, we see the reality of these economic challenges every day. This summer we are providing fresh and healthy food to more than 7,000 people across Dakota County each and every month through a combination of innovative programs. Our programs were designed to make access easy for any family struggling, even if they live in the frustrating space between poverty and financial stability. Making life harder for these families benefits no one.

Your voice matters in these decisions, and I ask others to join us in helping to prevent these proposed cuts from becoming enacted. Visit theopendoorpantry.org/SNAPcuts for a link to make your voice heard. Public comments can be submitted through Monday, Sept. 23.

Jason Viana is the executive director of The Open Door. The Open Door is a Dakota County based hunger relief organization committed to ending local hunger through access to fresh and healthy food. More about The Open Door is at theopendoorpantry.org. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.

by Jason VianaSpecial to Sun ThisweekDakota County Tribune There are a lot of challenging places to live in our country, but I would argue one of the toughest is the space between abject poverty and a sustainable livelihood. Imagine making enough money that you didn’t “qualify” for many forms of help, but still not being able to meet your family’s basic needs.  We have thousands of people in our community stuck in this economic dead zone, and a new proposed policy aimed at restricting eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has these folks squarely in its cross hairs. The proposal aims to limit SNAP participation to people at 130 percent of the federal poverty line or below with limited exceptions.  “I mean, if they are above the poverty line, they probably don’t need benefits … right?” I truly wish it were that simple. This comment during a recent conversation reminds me of how challenging this topic this is and how poor a metric the Federal Poverty Line can be. The Federal Poverty line was never designed to be the sole measure of poverty in the United States, it was designed to be the agreed upon starting point as the absolute lowest income possible for meeting basic needs. The Poverty Line is the floor … not the ceiling. Currently the Poverty Line for a family of four is $25,750 a year, roughly $6 an hour for two adults working full time. We all know that is nowhere near enough to make ends meet in our community, yet more than 32,000 of our neighbors in Dakota County try to make it through each month living on less. Dakota County officials estimate that the true cost to live in our community is more than two and a half times the national poverty line. That means a family of four needs to earn just over $65,000, around $15 an hour for two adults working full time, to meet their basic needs.  In working class wages, it’s a long way between $25,000 a year and $65,000 a year. For the families working hard to make that journey out of poverty to a sustainable life, these cuts would pull the rug out from under them as they work to make their final steps. Cutting benefits for these families is as counterproductive as it is shortsighted. We ought do all we can to help families escape poverty, and SNAP has a remarkable track record of doing just that. SNAP is by all measures an effective program. Multiple studies laud SNAP’s effectiveness at helping families not only have enough food each month, but work their way out of poverty and into a more stable life. More than 3 million people were lifted out of poverty through SNAP participation in 2017 alone. Plus, every $1 invested in SNAP creates $1.79 in economic impact in our local community, meaning direct participants aren’t the only ones who will feel the impact of these cuts. At The Open Door, we see the reality of these economic challenges every day. This summer we are providing fresh and healthy food to more than 7,000 people across Dakota County each and every month through a combination of innovative programs. Our programs were designed to make access easy for any family struggling, even if they live in the frustrating space between poverty and financial stability. Making life harder for these families benefits no one. Your voice matters in these decisions, and I ask others to join us in helping to prevent these proposed cuts from becoming enacted. Visit theopendoorpantry.org/SNAPcuts for a link to make your voice heard. Public comments can be submitted through Monday, Sept. 23.

Jason Viana is the executive director of The Open Door. The Open Door is a Dakota County based hunger relief organization committed to ending local hunger through access to fresh and healthy food. More about The Open Door is at theopendoorpantry.org. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.

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