Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
Food banks need support as SNAP changes
Since 2020, the number of people depending on SNAP benefits — the government program previously called food stamps — has grown. In 2019, the number of Pennsylvanians was 1.6 million. Today, it is 1.8 million.
The amount of money spent on the program in Pennsylvania has grown from $2.4 billion in 2019 to a high of $5.43 billion in 2021. It dropped back to $5.4 billion in 2022 and is expected to fall further in 2023 as an additional pandemic amount given to beneficiaries is discontinued in March.
This was going to be necessary. The increases couldn’t last forever. Recipients either were moved up to the maximum allowed for their family size or they received an additional $95 in benefits if they already were at that maximum. It was an important intervention at a time when shelves were empty and many of the service jobs that supported low-income families were in flux because of pandemic precautions.
The end to this program will bring a different kind of complication than the upheaval of Medicaid and CHIP approvals that comes in April. The food insecurity issue will not just affect the people who stop receiving the benefit.
It is almost guaranteed to hit the people who never qualified for it.
Some of these are people who fall between the cracks of those who qualify for help and those who can get by without it. The inflation that has spiked so many once-affordable staples — including eggs, milk and bread — hasn’t helped.
Now, food banks are expecting the disappearing SNAP benefits to create even more demand.
There also are people who won’t qualify for SNAP at all now, such as seniors who received a Social Security cost of living increase that moved them out of benefit eligibility.
The increased stress on nonprofit reserves will be felt by real people. It will require real work to alleviate it.
Food is more than just something that keeps us alive. It’s a way that we bond with each other — it’s how we celebrate, mourn and share. And, in the face of such pressure, food banks are going to need a lot more sharing. — Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Don’t appeal school ruling
Commonwealth Court Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer’s historic decision on school funding honors the state constitution’s clear intent to ensure that all children have access to a decent education.
In a 786-page ruling, she found unconstitutional the method by which the state government partially funds public schools, largely along lines alleged by six underfunded school districts, some parents and several education advocacy organizations who brought the case.
The constitution, she found, was “clearly, palpably, and plainly violated because of a failure to provide all students with access to a comprehensive, effective, and contemporary system of public education that will give them a meaningful opportunity to succeed academically, socially, and civically.”
Pennsylvania’s government, in effect, has two systems for distributing $7.4 billion in education funding, only about 35% of total public education spending. The Legislature adopted a “fair funding” formula in 2015, thus acknowledging that the previous formula had become unfair. But, because lawmakers did not want to diminish funding to some districts, it decided to distribute fairly only the money that it appropriated after 2015. The result is that the new, fair formula applies to less than 20% of all state education funding.
Underfunded districts must make up the shortfall through local property taxes.
Because of vast disparities in wealth and the tax bases across the state’s 500 school districts, many districts are underfunded relative to more affluent districts.
Jubelirer’s order invalidates the system but does not specify how to fix it, which she left to the Legislature and governor. “The options for reform are virtually limitless,” she wrote.
The decision is appealable by Gov. Josh Shapiro, who likely will not do so given his support, as attorney general, for the underlying litigation, and by House Republicans.
Shapiro should get the reform ball rolling by proposing effective reforms in his budget address. And rather than appeal to buy time against reform, legislative Republicans should engage in the process so that access to public education is not determined by ZIP code alone. — Scranton Times-Tribune