Please read these questions and let us know what your organization and others in the Empire 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) New York has the 2nd most unequal distribution of wealth in the nation. While poverty rates hover around the national averages, this still means 14.2% of the population in New York lives in poverty. Is there any effort being made to bridge the gap in income equality in the state and reduce the high levels of poverty?
2) Participation in SNAP especially among the working poor is below the national average and among the worst in the country. Is there any movement to increase those who receive SNAP benefits?
3) Only 43% of those eligible receive unemployment benefits throughout New York State. Although this is in line with the national average, it still leaves a large number of people with no support while they search for new employment. Do you know of any efforts to increase outreach for this program?
4) The percentage of students who participate in both the School Breakfast Program and School Lunch Program is 39%. This is below the nation average and among the worst in the country. Is there currently any effort to increase participation in both programs?
5) The benefit rate for the Senior Farmer’s Market Program is well below the national average. Is there movement to increase benefit levels especially given the above average percentage of seniors living in poverty? Do you know of any groups lobbying for increased federal funding for this program?
6) The number of farmers’ markets in New York is the highest out of all the states, as is the number participating in Senior Farmers Markets and CSAs. What aspects of these programs in this state lead to such high participation rates? Who has been involved in the programs?
7) New York has one of the highest rates of homelessness. The foreclosure rate at 4.3 is among the highest in the nation, which could be an outcome of large percentages of renters and mortgage holders paying 30% or more of their income on rent and utilities/monthly owner costs. What efforts are being made to reduce homelessness? Which are most successful? Are there any efforts to create more affordable, low-income housing?
8) Although New York does have a state LIHEAP and high participation in federal LIHEAP, given the extremely cold weather during the winter months and the heat and humidity during the summer months, why is the maximum LIHEAP payment only $540. Many states set their max level well beyond this amount. Is there any effort to increase the maximum LIHEAP benefit?
9) The state of New York is the fourth highest state for number of people in prison. Do you know of any efforts to reduce this number, possibly through alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders or programs to reduce recidivism?
10) The high school completion rate in New York is more than ten percent below the national average of 75.84%. Are there any efforts to help children stay in school and earn their diplomas? If so who is involved?
11) 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.