Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Enrollment – Montana

Requests for food aid up 50% in past 2 years, By Susan Olp, September 10, 2010, Billings Gazette: “As if additional proof was needed of the sagging economy’s effect, more people than ever are seeking help to supplement their food budget. That’s true for the nation as a whole, as well as in the state and locally. The number of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly the Food Stamp program — has steadily increased in the past two years. ‘There is more usage of this subsidy program than there has been in history,’ said Linda Snedigar, administrator for the Human and Community Services Division of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. She recently attended a conference titled ‘SNAP Makes History,’ underlining that fact. As unemployment has steadily increased, so has the number of people enrolling in the federally funded SNAP program, Snedigar said. ‘Over the last two years we’ve seen almost a 50 percent increase in the number of people receiving SNAP in Montana,’ she said. That’s about one person for every eight in the state, Snedigar said. In August 2006, the number of recipients in Montana receiving benefits through SNAP totaled 81,717. That number dipped to 81,240 in 2008 and then climbed to 118,958 in 2010…”

Public Housing and Drug Testing – Flint, MI

Flint eyes drug tests for public housing, By Kim Kozlowski, September 13, 2010, Detroit News: “Flint’s public housing authority, in an effort to fight crime in the projects, is considering a requirement for all current and prospective residents to take a drug test to keep their federally subsidized apartments. Flint Housing Commission Executive Rodney Slaughter said he wants a drug-testing program modeled after the city of Indianapolis, where public housing residents are required to take annual drug tests. If a resident tests positive, they would have 30 days to test negative or seek help. ‘We’re trying to change the mindset,’ Slaughter said. ‘There is a reasonable amount of negative events that take place … drug dealing, gambling, dice throwing. People should have the right to live in a drug-free, clean community.’ But civil rights advocates said they will fight the effort. ‘Being poor is not a crime in Michigan,’ said Rana Elmir, director of the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. ‘To treat all tenants of public housing as criminals is bad public policy. And it’s unconstitutional.’ Flint’s drug arrests have been steadily declining, from 1,257 in 2005 to 618 in 2009, according to statistics provided by the mayor’s office. But in 2009, Flint had the second-highest violent crime rate among the nation’s largest cities, second only to St. Louis, according to an analysis of data police provided to the FBI…”

US Poverty Rate

With election looming, record gains in poverty expected, By Hope Yen and Liz Sidoti (AP), September 12, 2010, Lawrence Journal World: “The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama’s watch, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty. Census figures for 2009 – the recession-ravaged first year of the Democrat’s presidency – are to be released in the coming week, and demographers expect grim findings. It’s unfortunate timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks before important elections when control of Congress is at stake. The anticipated poverty rate increase – from 13.2 percent to about 15 percent – would be another blow to Democrats struggling to persuade voters to keep them in power. ‘The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there,’ Obama said Friday at a White House news conference. He stressed his commitment to helping the poor achieve middle-class status and said, ‘If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle.’ Interviews with six demographers who closely track poverty trends found wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent…”