Showing posts with label Food Stamps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food Stamps. Show all posts

March 15, 2020

Fed Judge Blocks Trump from Kicking 700,000 from Food Stamps

     It's nice to have never been hungry in all your 75 years of life. Nice to eat for three and weight 350lbs But That alone will cut your life span for at least 10 years. Nature always gets its way! What?  You went to the store and bought toilet paper good enough for your whole block of neighbors except they will have none and you will never get to use all of yours. Hoarding is against nature. Even animals in the wild don't do it. Are you worse than the animals?                  Image result for government food snaps
                                   Image result for government food snaps
A federal judge has issued an injunction blocking the Trump administration from adopting a rule change that would force nearly 700,000 Americans off food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The rule change was set to take effect April 1.
In a ruling issued Friday evening in Washington, D.C., U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell called the rule change capricious, arbitrary and likely unlawful.
The rule change would have required able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for SNAP benefits past three months. It would also have limited states' usual ability to waive those requirements depending on economic conditions. The preliminary injunction will preserve that flexibility.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it was adopting the rule change in December, but critics have called on the department to suspend implementation, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department planned to move ahead with the rule. 
While the rule applies to "able-bodied adults without dependents," anti-hunger advocates note that category can include parents who don't have primary custody of their kids, youths who have recently aged out of foster care and some low-income college students.
In her ruling, Howell cited concerns raised by the spread of coronavirus and its effect on the most vulnerable Americans. "Especially now, as a global pandemic poses widespread health risks, guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential," she wrote.
The change to SNAP is now blocked from taking effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit by 19 states plus the District of Columbia and New York City.
"This is a major victory for our country's most vulnerable residents who rely on SNAP to eat," D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, who co-led the coalition behind the lawsuit, said in a statement. "The Trump administration's rule would have forced hundreds of thousands of people who could not find work, including 13,000 District residents, to go hungry. That could have been catastrophic in the midst of our current public health emergency."

January 17, 2020

This is What Happens When Trump Made Food Stamps Harder To Get

Credit...Andrew Spear for The New York Times

MILTON, W.Va. — In the early mornings, Chastity and Paul Peyton walk from their small and barely heated apartment to Taco Bell to clean fryers and take orders for as many work hours as they can get. It rarely adds up to a full-time week’s worth, often not even close. With this income and whatever cash Mr. Peyton can scrape up doing odd jobs — which are hard to come by in a small town in winter, for someone without a car — the couple pays rent, utilities, and his child support payments.

Then there is the matter of food.

“We can barely eat,” Ms. Peyton said. She was told she would be getting food stamps again soon — a little over two dollars’ worth a day — but the couple was without them for months. Sometimes they made too much money to qualify; sometimes it was a matter of working too little. There is nothing reliable but the local food pantry.

Four years ago, thousands of poor people here in Cabell County and eight other counties in West Virginia that were affected by a state policy change found themselves having to prove that they were working or training for at least 20 hours a week in order to keep receiving food stamps consistently. In April, under a rule change by the Trump administration, people all over the country who are “able-bodied adults without dependents” will have to do the same.

The policy seems straightforward, but there is nothing straightforward about the reality of the working poor, daily life of unreliable transportation, erratic work hours and capricious living arrangements. 

Still, what has happened in the nine counties in West Virginia in the last four years does offer at least an indication of how it will play out on a larger scale. 

The most visible impact has been at homeless missions and food pantries, which saw a big spike in demand that has never receded. But the policy change was barely noticeable in the workforce, where evidence of some large influx of new workers is hard to discern. This reflects similar findings elsewhere, as states have steadily been reinstating work requirements in the years since the recession when nearly the whole country waived them.

Since 1996, federal law has set a time limit on how long able-bodied adults could receive food stamps: no more than three months in a three-year period, if the recipient was not working or in training for at least 20 hours a week. But states have been able to waive those rules in lean times and in hurting areas; waivers are still in place in roughly one-third of the country.

Under the new rule from the Trump administration, most of these waivers will effectively be eliminated. By the administration’s own estimate, around 700,000 people will lose food stamps. Officials say that there are plenty of jobs waiting for them in the humming economy.
This was the thinking as West Virginia began lifting waivers four years ago, starting in the counties where unemployment rates were lowest. 

The reimposition of work requirements for food stamps in Cabell County, W.Va., and eight other counties appeared to have no impact on the number of people there who were working, only on the number receiving aid.

One of the first signs of the change came in the dining hall of the Huntington City Mission, about half an hour’s drive from little Milton. Suddenly, the hall was packed.

“It was just like, ‘Boom, what’s going on here?’” said Mitch Webb, the director of the 81-year-old mission. In early 2016, the mission served an average of around 8,700 meals a month. After the new food stamp policy went into full effect, that jumped to over 12,300 meals a month. “It never renormalized,” Mr. Webb said.

That was true all-around Huntington.

“A few years ago, at the first of the month we would be slow and toward the end of the months we would be busy,” said Diana Van Horn, who runs the food pantry at Trinity Episcopal Church. “Now we are busy all the time.”

Cynthia Kirkhart, who runs Facing Hunger, the main food bank in the region, said people started just showing up at the warehouse, asking if they were handing out food. There was no telling where else they were now turning. “People who are surviving do not approach the world the same way as people who are thriving,” she said.

That the number of people receiving food stamps would drop significantly was, of course, by design. The question was what would become of them. 

According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a research group that focuses heavily on social safety-net issues, there was no evidence of a big change in the job market. While around 5,410 people lost food stamps in the nine counties, the growth in the labor force in these counties over the ensuing three years significantly lagged the rest of the state. Average monthly employment growth in the counties actually slowed, while it nearly doubled in the rest of West Virginia.

“We can prove it from the data that this does not work,” said Seth DiStefano, policy outreach director at the center.

The state Department of Health and Human Resources initially acknowledged as much. “Our best data,” it reported in 2017, “does not indicate that the program has had a significant impact on employment figures.” 

Jerome Comer, 47, who left rehab last year, is now working in the warehouse of Facing Hunger, a food bank in Huntington, W.Va. Credit...Andrew Spear for The New York Times
In an email message last week, a spokeswoman for the department said that the available data “does not paint a clear picture of the impact” of the changes in employment in the nine counties.

Delegate Tom Fast, a Republican lawmaker who sponsored a bill in 2018 that restored work requirements for food stamps statewide, said he considered the policy a success. “The information I have is that there have been significant savings overall,” he said, coupling that with a low unemployment rate as evidence that the policy was working.

“If a person just chooses not to work, which those are the people that were targeted, they’re not going to get a free ride,” he said. Of people who are facing concrete obstacles to steady work, like a lack of transportation, he added: “If there’s a will, there’s away.” 

This is a popular sentiment, even among those who have had to rely on food stamps. The Peytons expressed little sympathy for people “just getting things handed to them.” At dinnertime at the city mission, men complained about people who were too lazy to work, who were sponging off the system.

“Not giving people food stamps because they don’t work is probably the best course of action,” said Zach Tate, who had been at the mission before, but now, with a place to stay, was just back for a meal. “It’s like training a puppy.”

He returned to his turkey Alfredo for a few moments and then clarified.

“But taking it away indefinitely doesn’t work either,” he said. “It creates a sense of despair.”

To move from talk of what is right policy to the reality of daily life is to enter a totally different conversation, one about the never-ending logistics of poverty: the hunt for space in a small house with 10 other people, the ailing family members who are wholly dependent without technically being “dependents,” the tenuousness of recovery while living among addicts, the hopelessness of finding decent work with a felony record.

One man in Milton spoke of losing a job loading trucks when the employer looked up his bad credit report. A woman who lives some miles out in the country said it was nearly impossible to work as a waitress in a town when the last bus comes and goes at 7 p.m.

“You see people in these hills around here that can’t get out to a job because they have no vehicle,” said Jerome Comer, 47, who left rehab last year and is now working in the warehouse of Facing Hunger. “You say, ‘Well, they’re able-bodied Americans.’ Yeah, but they live 40 miles out in the holler. They can’t walk to McDonald’s.” 

Mr. Comer moving a pallet at Facing Hunger. Credit...Andrew Spear for The New York Times
Mr. Comer had been raised by a disabled mother reliant on food stamps and had relied on government assistance himself when he was a younger man with a family, even though he was working two jobs. That is the thing: Most working-age adults on food stamps are either already working or are between jobs. 

But the jobs are unstable and inconsistent — as in the Peytons’ case, paying too much to qualify for benefits one month, offering too few hours to qualify the next. That is the root of the problem, Mr. Comer said. But addressing it would be a lot more expensive than food stamps.

“If they could come up with a work program for these people to give them jobs and transportation and everything, I’d agree with that,” Mr. Comer went on. “If you’re an able-bodied American and you ain’t got a job and they’re going to give you one and give you the means to get back and forth to it, that’s great. But then what’s that going to cost you?”

January 9, 2020

Trump's New Snaps Cut Will Hurt Deeply Those That Can Least Afford It~But What DoesHe Care!

                               Image result for food being cut by trump

 ~  First Person ~
First-person essays and interviews with unique perspectives on complicated issues.

Each week, spend an hour and a half helping fill bags with frozen meat, cans of soup, boxes of mac and cheese, and handfuls of fruit for clients at my agency on Chicago’s North Side. For many of the clients at my food pantry internship, this limited assistance is the difference between unbearable hunger and just being able to scrape by. 
Now, I’m worried I’ll see busier pantry days. In December, the US Department of Agriculture approved new rules that will require able-bodied adults without children to work 20 hours a week, or participate in a job-search program, in order to receive SNAP benefits. This is expected to remove 700,000 people from the federal food stamp program. Many social service organizations are already feeling the strain as more people seek services due to the triple whammy of low wagesrising rents, and a stream of cuts to social welfare programs. My concern isn’t just for my clients: I know firsthand how cruel this change in policy is. As a graduate student in social work, I have experienced it personally. 
So much of our public discourse about SNAP misses the mark because we only see one facet of the hunger crisis in America. When the argument about who “deserves” financial assistance in order to eat — something we must all do to live — is framed as “lazy slacker living off the system” versus the “deserving poor,” we forget all the invisible people in the middle of this spectrum of stereotypes: the teacher who has a second job just to make ends meet, the newspaper reporter with an overdrawn bank account, or the social work intern who only got a decent winter coat because her friends and synagogue raised the money. 
These are people who do vital work in our society, yet they are often compensated very little and face food insecurity as a result. While many of these people might meet the new work requirements, they could lose benefits in the future if policymakers continue to go down this path of restricting SNAP eligibility by increasing qualifying criteria.  
Then there are the part-time social services workers — graduate students like myself — who could be disqualified from SNAP. In 2017, I enrolled at my local community college so I could take social science classes in order to gain admission to a master of the social work program. I was working 15 hours a week at an after-school program and barely managing to pay my rent and bills on time. Shortly after the beginning of the semester, I received a worrying notice from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services: My SNAP benefits would be eliminated if I did not work at least 20 hours a week. 
When I called my caseworker to explain my situation, I got a disheartening response: I did not meet the limited eligibility requirements for college students to receive SNAP — which includes working 20 hours a week and/or caring for dependents, or receiving other types of assistance — and my benefits would be cut. My desire to get more education so I could enroll in graduate school left me scrambling to figure out how to replace $160 in my already disastrous monthly budget. I still do not qualify for SNAP now as a graduate student (my current internship is unpaid), so I am back doing that awkward dance of trying to navigate a messy patchwork of food and nutrition resources. 
Even more complicated is having to contend with the contradictory norms and codes of ethics of the social work profession that interfere with needing assistance. A Seattle social worker recently posted on the popular /r/legaladvice subreddit that her boss threatened to fire her because some of her clients saw her receiving services at the local food bank they frequent. In her post, she stated that she makes $29,000 a year, and that she and her husband live paycheck to paycheck. Her boss was concerned that she was “gaming the system” by using community resources for her family during a financial crisis and that it was unethical for her to be going to the same food pantries she refers clients to (which she points out are “pretty much all of them in the city”). 
I ran into this ethical dilemma when I faced a major financial crisis near the end of the semester, just as it was starting to get cold in Chicago, and i badly needed a winter coat. A friend earnestly suggested I contact a popular social service agency in my area. It was the same one many of my clients go to, funded in part by my agency’s parent organization. What if I ran into a client? Would this be a conflict of interest? 
My colleague Alex Kelley, a social worker and community organizer based in Michigan, shares my concerns and frustrations. “There’s a fundamental misinterpretation in prohibiting social workers from seeking services themselves. In many communities, the same risks happen at grocery stores, doctor’s offices, etc. If risks to confidentiality can be mitigated there, they can be mitigated at a food bank,” he said.
Samantha Greene, a licensed clinical social worker working independently in Texas, mentioned how location can also exacerbate these conflicts. “In rural communities, where resources tend to be less, this puts an extra strain on social workers who may find themselves needing a service only provided by one entity in the area.”
Economic insecurity among social service workers is one of those things people talk about at length privately, but the profession fails to address it publicly. Fellow social workers in the field talk about how low wages have personally impacted them, or how their coworkers are all independently wealthy “because how else could you afford to work here with this salary.” The median social work salary in 2018 was $49,470, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which includes high-income regions such as the Bay Area. We also can’t forget that most agencies, hospitals, and clinics rely on social work interns who get paid nothing to provide vital services to clients and communities.
(Unfortunately, there is no research or data devoted to SNAP enrollment among social workers, or financial backgrounds of social workers or social work students. It’s almost as though the entire field has built its own wall of silence around this issue.) 
In his essay “Social Services or Social Change?” writer, activist, and violence prevention specialist Paul Kivel described how social service workers are designed to be a “buffer zone” between poor people and those who control unjust systems. Creating a field of professionals to be that barrier prevents social workers and clients from seeing how much they have in common with each other — and how politically aligned they could be. Establishing and respecting appropriate boundaries is important to keep both social workers and clients safe, but the social work field must also contend with these broader issues within the profession.
We need to rethink why our state and federal policies around programs like SNAP are designed to subdivide recipients based on completely ridiculous standards of “deservingness.” We need to be willing to confront the complex web of social, cultural, and political attitudes that motivate this cruelty and exacerbate our nation’s failure to end hunger for all. Before making judgments about SNAP recipients, consider that the person in front of you buying their groceries with SNAP could be someone working to make these programs better. 
Elena Gormley is a master of social work candidate at the University of Illinois-Chicago Jane Addams College of Social Work. Her work can also be found on Vice, Alma, JTA, and Jewish Currents.

July 23, 2019

Trump Wants to Cost Food Stamps by 12% or $2.5 Billion on People Already Proven are Beyond Poor

Does he want the money for the wall or just more traveling by his government supported family?

                   Image result for trump hates the poor


Currently, 43 U.S. states allow residents to automatically become eligible for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, if they receive benefits from another federal program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, according to the USDA.

But the agency wants to require people who receive TANF benefits to pass a review of their income and assets to determine whether they are eligible for free food from SNAP, officials said.

If enacted, the rule would save the federal government about $2.5 billion a year by removing people from SNAP, according to the USDA.

U.S. President Donald Trump has argued that many Americans now using SNAP do not need it given the strong economy and low unemployment, and should be removed as a way to save taxpayers as much as $15 billion.

“Some states are taking advantage of loopholes that allow people to receive the SNAP benefits who would otherwise not qualify and for which they are not entitled,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters on a conference call on Monday. 

SNAP provides free food to some 40 million Americans or about 12% of the total U.S. population.

A Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill was blocked by Congress last year, following a months-long, partisan debate.

The USDA does not need congressional approval, however, to stop states from automatically allowing recipients of TANF benefits to become eligible for SNAP, said Brandon Lipps, a USDA acting deputy undersecretary.

Current rules allow people to access SNAP benefits worth thousands of dollars for two years without going through robust eligibility reviews, he told reporters on the call.

“Unfortunately, automatic eligibility has expanded to allow even millionaires and others who simply receive a TANF-funded brochure to become eligible for SNAP when they clearly don’t need it,” Lipps said.

The USDA will accept public comment on the proposed rule change. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in December estimated the rule could save the federal government $8.1 billion from 2019 to 2028, lower than the USDA’s estimate.

In 2016, the CBO said arguments against the change included concerns that it would eliminate benefits for households in difficult financial situations and increase the complexity and time involved in verifying information on SNAP applications.

Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Peter Cooney
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

June 9, 2018

A Large Part of Senior LGBT's Are On Food Stamps If Trump Bill Passes They Will Go Hungry

Editor’s note: What will the future hold for LGBTQ rights and representation? With this year’s Beyond Pride series, Mic looks forward to see how the radical changes in recent years will continue to transform our culture in the worlds of politics, business, entertainment and more. You can receive all these stories in your inbox by signing up here.
LGBT people are disproportionately food insecure — meaning a larger percentage of this group doesn’t have enough money to feed their family or themselves, relative to the general population. Research from a 2016 report by the Williams Institute found that 27% of LGBT adults — or 2.2 million people — went through a period of food insecurity that year, while a much smaller 17% of non-LGBT adults experienced the same. 
The report also revealed that more than one in four LGB adults participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is still colloquially known as “food stamps.” The program is often misrepresented as giving handouts to freeloaders, and it’s one that President Donald Trump has alluded to as being rife with fraud and laziness. In the Trump administration’s 2018 Farm Bill proposal, which has yet to successfully pass, LGBT people are even further disadvantaged. 

How Trump’s farm bill hurts LGBT people

In regards to SNAP, the new bill would require tighter work requirements for those who receive assistance from the program. More specifically, “it would institute a policy that would require able-bodied adults under the age of 60 without young children to prove monthly that they are working or participating in a work program for 20 total hours each week in order to qualify for assistance, with a month’s buffer between losing a job and sanctions,” the Atlantic reported. 
“People at odds are going to do what they need to do to feed themselves — eating is a part of survival.” — Tyrone Hanley, NCLR 
Expanding work requirements under SNAP doesn’t adequately help people seek jobs, nor does it address the systemic reasons why LGBTQ people have trouble getting work in the first place, Tyrone Hanley, policy counsel at the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a phone interview. “Employment discrimination is a significant factor that directly contributes to LGBTQ poverty and unemployment rates,” a group of 56 queer and allied organizations, including NCLR, wrote in a letter to Congress opposing the Farm Bill. “Over half of the U.S. population lives in a state without explicit nondiscrimination laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.” 
Supporters listen as Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., holds a news conference with faith leaders to “urge lawmakers to reject proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the Farm Bill” on Monday, May 7.
Supporters listen as Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., holds a news conference with faith leaders to “urge lawmakers to reject proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the Farm Bill” on Monday, May 7.  Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images
These work requirements would increase the likelihood that more LGBT people will be food insecure, Hanley said. Even more, “there’s no question that by limiting the number of people that can access food assistance, more people are going to seek money through the underground economy,” Hanley said, explaining that criminalized work in either the drug trade and the sex trade is more likely to be sought out.  
“People at odds are going to do what they need to do to feed themselves — eating is a part of survival,” he continued. In interviews conducted in New York City with LGBTQ youth, the Urban Institute found that “almost all of those who engaged in survival sex did so in order to make ends meet,” according to a report published by the Social Justice Sexuality Project.  
“SNAP, for a lot of people, is the difference between literally starving and not starving,” Meghan Maury, policy director at The National LGBTQ Task Force, said over the phone. “Putting work requirements [onto SNAP] is shameful to me. I can’t say it another way — I know what it’s like to be hungry. Everyone should have access to the food they need to function.” 
LGBT people are, of course, not the only ones who will be hurt by the proposed bill. Virtually any marginalized group that is disproportionately affected by poverty will be put at a greater disadvantage with the work requirements. LGBT poverty and hunger issues are not often discussed in mainstream media, however, because of “positive stereotypes” that lead people to assume LGBT communities are well off, despite the data that shows otherwise, Hanley said.  “Media portrayals like ‘Will and Grace’ lead the public to believe that all gay people are white, wealthy and doing just fine.” — Meghan Maury 
In reality, LGBT people, particularly women and people of color, face poverty at significantly higher degrees than their non-LGBT counterparts. “I think there’s a myth of gay affluence which still persists,” Maury said. “Media portrayals like Will and Grace lead the public to believe that all gay people are white, wealthy and doing just fine, and what we’re fighting for is cake at our wedding and not basic human rights and human dignity.”
Kate Bratskeir

April 1, 2014

One Billion Increase in Nukes While Education and Food Stamps are Cuts


Move the Money from War to Education by Johnny Keane
We live in strange times, indeed. In the past few months, the U.S. Congress has failed to extend unemployment benefits for 1.3 million people and has passed legislation that will cut $8.6 billion in food stamps over the next 10 years, affecting 850,000 households in 1/3 of the states.

   At the same time, the 2015 budget shows a 7% increase in spending on nuclear weapons, from $18.6 billion to $19.4 billion -- almost $1 billion. While the overall amount allocated for nuclear weapons is greater than last year, the funds dedicated to nuclear nonproliferation programs — programs to reduce the numbers of available warheads or securing so-called "loose nukes" was cut, making more dollars available to either build new nuclear weapons hardware or spend billions to modernize old ones, such as the B-61 bomb.

If this budget is accepted it will show once again that our nation's priorities favor increased spending on weapons of mass destruction at the expense of programs that help people survive tough times and keep food on their tables. At a time when our economy continues to struggle and the gap between rich and poor widens, how is it that our elected officials opt to spend more money on nuclear weapons? It is the wrong time to promote additional spending on nuclear weapons when diplomacy is easing tensions between the international community and Iran, a country which once again has assured the world that it is not planning to build nuclear weapons or when another diplomatic agreement obliged Syria to destroy its chemical weapons. 

After spending $4 -- 6 trillion on war since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, the American public is war-weary and war-wise. The tremendous outpouring of opposition to a proposed military strike against Syria or war against Iran is due, in part, to an increasing number of Americans understanding the connection between these huge outlays of cash for war and a treasury drained of funds to help local communities.

 Winslow Wheeler's March 13th article titled " America's $1 Trillion National Security Budget" published by the Straus Military Reform's Project on Government Oversight, explains how the Pentagon's criticism of a proposed $495.6 billion military budget for 2015 as "austere and dangerously inadequate" is misleading. According to Wheeler, "Scarcity of money is not their problem. Pentagon costs, taken together with other known national security expenses for 2015, will exceed $1 Trillion." Included in Wheeler's analysis are:
a maximum of $79.4 billion to continue the war in Afghanistan,
$6.2 billion in "mandatory" spending for military retirement and other DOD-only programs;
the Pentagon's $26 billion dollar portion of the "Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative" characterized by some as a slush fund,  
$37.8 billion in additional money paid by the Treasury for military retirement and DOD healthcare,
$19.4 billion in nuclear weapons' costs borne by the Department of Energy,
$52.1 billion in non-DOD spending in the Department of Homeland Security,
 $161.2 billion for the human consequences of past and ongoing wars in the Department of Veterans Affairs,
 $39 billion for the activities of the Department of State and related agencies-for international security and the exercise of US power abroad; and
an equitable share of the interest on the national debt that is related to this spending.

These costs added together total $1.0095 trillion for 2015!
     Here are two ways to reduce this. Two nearly identical bills in the U.S. Congress today target nuclear weapons spending to save money. Senator Markey, D-Mass, introduced the "Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditures (SANE)" Act and Rep. Blumenauer, D-Ore, introduced the "Reduce Expenditures in Nuclear Infrastructure Now (REIN-IN)" Act. According toEric Tamerlani's article "Reining in Nuke Spending the Smart Way" in the March 12th Roll Call, these bills will save taxpayers $100 billion on nuclear weapons over 10 years. The bills would reduce the number of new nuclear submarines, cap tactical nuke modernization and scrap the F-35’s nuclear mission. 

     In late April, pro-disarmament activists from around the world will gather at the United Nations to prepare nuclear disarmament proposals to present at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Sharon Dolev, Director of the Israeli Disarmament Movement, will participate.  She will also speak on "Cooling the Hot Spot: A Nuclear Weapons Free Middle East" at NJPA's April 27th Annual Dinner at the Regency House in Pompton Plains. Her talk will address what a nuclear weapons free Middle East means for Israel, the region, and the world, as well as obstacles within Israel to attaining that important goal. For more information and to make reservations, visit

Cooling off tensions in the Middle East and preventing another war will release funds for programs that address community needs. This is not only timely, but essential, for genuine security in our nation and the world.

February 18, 2014

Norquist Style Austerity Slams HIV Patients and Takes the Food Out of the mouth of the Poor

Grover Norquist (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
When austerity proponents like Grover Norquist push for more and more cuts, there are real-world effects on some of our nation’s most vulnerable populations. Following recent sequester cuts, 85 percent of AIDS organizations saw their budgets reduced even as 79 percent saw their clients increase, according to a fall survey from the AIDS Institute. Last month, Congress increased Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funding to $70 million above sequestration levels — still $24 million below the Fiscal Year 2013 rate.
To consider how cuts – to AIDS programs, to food stamps and to unemployment — are impacting people with HIV, Salon called up Janet Weinberg, interim CEO of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the three-decade-old prevention, care and advocacy group.
“We’re creating a cycle where people are set up to not succeed on medication,” said Weinberg. A condensed version of our conversation follows.

 How is the sequester impacting Gay Men’s Health Crisis’ ability to do your work?
“Unfortunate” would be putting it mildly… The impact really hit very, very hard in social service agencies like GMHC…
We lost, as was described, 10 percent of our federal funds… You’re talking a million plus dollars. A million dollars buys an awful lot of service, and buys an awful lot of food, and buys an awful lot of security where people who are struggling with HIV won’t have it…
That [hit] every single one of our federal programs. So that meant [post-exposure prophylaxis] programs, that meant counseling programs, that meant programs for people who are HIV-positive, that meant working with youth between the ages of 14 and upward to 29…
On top of the sequester last year, because that was enough insult to injury, we also had something called Hold Harmless… a clause in the Ryan White [Act] to protect and make sure that cities like New York, which are the hardest hit with HIV, were protected, to ensure that they got what they needed out of Ryan White. And the [Health Resources and Services Administration] stated that they made a mathematical error and… $18 million of New York State Ryan White dollars had to be repaid. And what that meant was five months into a contract, we were told that contracts were being cut.
Now we’re talking about literally taking food out of people’s mouths…
These clients who are HIV-positive don’t get food? Guess what: they can’t take their medication. We’re sabotaging ourselves with this kind of thing.
 Ryan White also covered some legal services. These are clients that face eviction.
Putting somebody out on the street is helpful? Who’s HIV-positive?
…The kinds of services that GMHC is providing are critical life services that are fundamental… and that’s what was cut…
In 2012, the federal government appropriated $3.5 billion to HIV. With sequestration, $3.5 billion was cut to $3.2 billion… Pretty radical.
For people who are served by GMHC, how do those cuts interact with the cuts we’ve seen to food stamps and to unemployment benefits?
We are seeing clients who are hearing about these SNAP cuts and coming in, saying to us they do not know how they are possibly going to survive with less food than they have…
With the interaction of HIV meds, we really need to be watching nutrition, to make sure that these folks are getting the food they need to metabolize the medication. So these SNAP cuts may really truly affect these clients from being able to take meds. That’s pretty drastic. That’s very serious…
In terms of the unemployment pieces, we’re desperately trying to help people get back to work… [But] somebody with HIV can’t afford to have a job that doesn’t really give them security. Otherwise they really need to stay on benefits. So again, we’re defeating ourselves by not giving people enough of a safety net…
A person who has HIV has got to plan for how they are going to stay on their medication without any breaks whatsoever, which means you can’t have a gap in your healthcare coverage. You must have coverage for your medication. You can’t afford a risk of losing housing.
You really can’t couch-surf and stay healthy with HIV, because you’ve got to take medication, you need a routine, and part of that is having a steady roof over your head. With HIV, you need proper nutrition. So if you were to have a job, and the job is unstable, and suddenly you find yourself out of work and unable to find work… It’s not so easy to just jump back on Social Security Disability. First of all, if you’ve worked, you’re showing that you’re capable of working. And now you’re caught in real Catch-22…
We’re creating a cycle where people are set up to not succeed on medication.
If someone doesn’t have sufficient food, what happens to their medication?
There are certain meds that really have to be taken with food… It’s not just any food – it’s specific foods that you need…
These meds are very hard on the digestive system, and so it’s nutrition that allows metabolism of these meds. Without nutrition, you’re not triggering your whole metabolic system to digest and to ingest the meds properly so that you get the best effect from them.
Who do you blame for this new set of challenges?
Congress. I really, really blame the House…
At the [2010] International AIDS Conference, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came and spoke, and for the first time used the language that we could have a next generation that was AIDS-free. So you can see, the framework is being put in place, but the funding is not…
In the country, only about 25 percent of all people who have HIV and AIDS are what’s called virally suppressed, which means that they’re getting their medication at an optimal level… So then you scratch your head and say: in the United States, why [are] 75 percent not able to obtain that goal? So GMHC has been wrestling with that.
We started a program with Mount Sinai hospital two years ago, where every single person who tests positive in our testing center is basically… triaged into an emergency room kind of situation…When asked if they would like us to make them an appointment immediately, and walk them over to a doctor today, we have had basically 100 percent compliance – people want to go to the doctor if they find out they’re HIV-positive. But they need help getting there… We start giving them wraparound services, finding out who they are, how they might have gotten infected, what we can do to work with them, and help them get healthy, get stable again.
In that program, over the last two years that we’ve been running it, we have a 90 percent suppression rate, compared to the country’s 25 percent suppression rate.
I think we can resolve this HIV issue… [The issue is] the political will.
Is there a tension between a focus on research into preventing HIV and a focus on treatment? Are those in competition?
Yup. And the pendulum swings back and forth…
The early years of HIV, the only thing we had was prevention. Then we got antiretroviral therapy, and all the focus went to treatment. And [now] prevention among people who are HIV-positive has become the talk of the town – it’s called test-and-treat. So as soon as you test, you get on medication.
What we are neglecting is that there are actually [more] tools for prevention now, besides condoms and besides latex, there’s now pre-exposure prophylaxis, which gets a fair amount of attention. But [for] all that attention, there’s only 1,600 people in the U.S. on pre-exposure prophylaxis. We can do better.
The other is that we have post-exposure prophylaxis, so in the event that somebody is subjected to HIV for whatever reason… you’ve got a 72-hour window to get on post-exposure prophylaxis and decrease their rate of actually getting HIV by about 96 percent…
We have tools that aren’t being used. We’re not doing good enough with preventing people from getting HIV… The medications are expensive. I could keep them negative for a whole lot less money.
The relationship, in politics and in media and culture in the U.S., between HIV and the LGBT movement — has that shifted, and to what extent has that been good or bad in terms of efforts to address HIV?
The community seems to put all their eggs in one basket. So in the ’80s it was all about HIV and nothing else. And now, in the second decade of the 21st century, we seem to put all of our eggs into the marriage basket. And nothing wrong with that — we consider that to be an HIV intervention. But HIV really is not on even… the Top Five agenda for LGBT folks.
Yet when we look at the numbers… The top numbers for new infection, and the only area that new infection is occurring more rapidly than anywhere else, is young black or people of color MSM [men who have sex with men]… LGBT should be incorporating it…
The only other thing I would press on this is… if you look at how much money is going into HIV today, with inflation, it equals the same amount of money as 1991. And yet we have so many more tools, and so much more we can do with HIV. This is not the time to be not addressing inflation, and not addressing cost of living with an HIV budget.
GMHC and other organizations are truly ready to end the AIDS epidemic. We can get below epidemic levels. We have the tools, we have the knowledge, we have the skills. We don’t have the money.
This post comes from and posted by 

Josh Eidelson

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