Massachusetts Hunger and Poverty Policy Questions

Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Bay State are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need.

Virtually all states have budget deficits and extensive financial problems this year and beyond.  The states are also the custodians and administrators of multi billions of dollars of federal assistance programs. State policies related to hunger and poverty contain a great deal of state money that is in short supply right now but much more federal money that can grow as the use of the programs grows.

These state policy questions are meant to begin a conversation about how states can deliver more services to their citizens who are facing extreme long term unemployment, hunger, home foreclosures and loss of health insurance and pensions. 

Please read them and let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction that helps those in need, especially the poorest of the poor, the millions of new poor, seniors, returning vets, children and the homeless.

Our intention is to create a place on our website that will highlight policy actions that state based organizations are taking and how they are proceeding.  We also hope to host a WhyHunger State Policy Award for the best state policies in the U.S.A.

1. SNAP participation for all eligible people and eligible working poor are among the worst in the country. What is being done to increase participation in this program?  Which organizations are involved?
2. There is a 6.25% sales tax on non-prescription medicine in the state of Massachusetts. Many states exempt these products from taxation. Is there any effort in your state to make non-prescription drugs exempt from tax?
3. Only 17% of households receive LIHEAP benefits. This is rather low compared to the rest of the country.  Given the long winter season in Massachusetts, why do so few homes receive LIHEAP benefits?  Also, there is no minimum benefit. Is there any effort to establish a minimum benefit?
4. Massachusetts has one of the lowest percentages of taxpayers receiving a federal EITC. Is there any effort being made to increase the number of people who receive an EITC?
5. Massachusetts has a high rate of homelessness.  Is anything done to prevent people from losing their homes or to help those who already have?
6. The state Pre-K Program has very low enrollment rates and spending per child. What is being done to improve the program and increase awareness? Who is involved?
7. Massachusetts has the highest percentage of poverty among Hispanics in the nation. What is being done to deliver aid specifically to this group?
8. Massachusetts has among the highest numbers of children participating in the Summer Nutrition Program. Are there any special features of this program in your state that has lead to the successful outreach of this program?
9. The total number of farmers’ markets and the number of WIC and Senior Farmers’ Markets are among the highest in that nation. However, the seasonal benefit for the WIC Farmers’ Market is only half the national average. Is there any efforts to raise the WIC benefit?
10. What other statewide policies or programs are you aware of that are helping to fight hunger and poverty, or are there any that are responsible for increasing it?

Please let us know what your organization and others in your state are doing to move legislation and policy in a direction to address these questions by contacting Executive Director and Co-Founder Bill Ayres at [email protected]

Feel free to inform us of any mistakes we may have made in any of these questions. Also we would appreciate any comments on policies or statistics that might have been overlooked.