Speaking Out! A strange attack on the Census
This week we’re talking about food stamps, a strange attack on the Census, and a new policy on deportation that could help many undocumented kids.
Effort to cut food stamps stopped in Senate
The Senate last week rejected an effort to dramatically cut food aid to needy children. The measure would have nearly halved federal spending to help low-income families.
The proposed cuts came as an amendment to the massive farm bill Congress is now deliberating, which supports the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). The amendment, from Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, would have capped SNAP at $45 billion a year, far below the $80 billion the program costs now.
It would have also turned the program into block grant awarded to state governments, a move that would have weakened the program and tempted states to use the money to fill other budget holes. The Paul amendment lost in a 65-33 vote – good news for the 46 million Americans who now rely on SNAP. Half of all food stamp recipients are children.
Some policymakers have objected to the rise in food aid spending in recent years. However, following the economic downturn, SNAP and other programs have hard to support more Americans; their budgets are growing simply because they’re providing services to more people. See how in our infographic.
A strange attack on the Census
The New York Times writes that the American Community Survey “may be the most important government function you’ve never heard of.” A supplement to the U.S. Census, ACS collects data on trends that define American life, like how many people are low-income, how people get health care, what languages they speak, and more. Bafflingly, some in Congress have rallied to end the survey.
Last May the House voted to scrap ACS, which has been providing key data on American demographics in some form or other since 1850. Citing concern over how the program “intrudes on people’s lives,” Rep. Daniel Webster has led the charge against the data collection program. Yet ACS data is used only to present an aggregate portrait of communities, and is the only survey of its kind.
Although strange, this attack is being taken seriously by Voices and its partners. After all, good data is important to understanding public policy and the plight of needy children. According to the Brookings Institution, the survey is key to understanding how over $400 billion in government funds are spent. The Joint Economic Committee will conduct a hearing on ACS Tuesday ; we’ll be keeping an eye on this issue.
Voices supports new protection for undocumented youth
Last week we were thrilled to see relief for some undocumented children facing deportation. From the blog:
The Obama administration will stop the deportation of many young undocumented immigrants, the White House announced today. Child advocates have fought for years against the deportation of promising students who have kept clean records and were brought into the United States when they were very young. Today we’re delighted that many of these students who most embody the idea of the American Dream will get to stay here and pursue it.
Over the past few years, Congress has attempted to address the problem of these kinds of deportations. The DREAM Act, which Voices supported, would have accomplished much of what Obama announced today: “Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization,” President Obama announced.
No version of the DREAM Act has passed Congress, and the policy announced today is not law. Obama presented it as a stopgap measure to improve America’s immigration policies until Congress can pass a more permanent legislative fix. We’ll continue to fight for a law like the DREAM Act, too, but for now are glad to see that fewer families will be disrupted and more hard-working students will be allowed to contribute to our country’s success.
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