WISCONSINREPORT.COM (01/28/08) - U.S. Senator Russ Feingold is leading an effort to include an increase in Food Stamp benefits in the economic stimulus package currently being worked on by Congress. In a letter to Senate leadership, Feingold and a bipartisan group of eighteen of his Senate colleagues asked that they reconsider the omission of the Food Stamp benefit increase from the package, in light of the fact that experts say it could help stimulate the economy as well as help low-income Americans.
“The economic trouble our nation is facing is weighing heavily on the minds of many Americans, particularly low-income Americans,” Feingold said.
“By boosting Food Stamp benefits, we are creating a win-win situation – helping Americans who need assistance the most and are likely to be adversely impacted by a downturn, while giving the economy a boost," Feingold pointed out.
During a January 22nd hearing in the Senate Finance Committee, Congressional Budget Office Director Peter R. Orszag suggested the temporary increase in Food Stamp benefits as one effective way to help spur the slowed economy. During his testimony, Orszag said that the vast majority of Food Stamp benefits are spent extremely rapidly because Food Stamp recipients have low income and few assets, and most of any additional benefits would probably be spent quickly.
Experts have cited returns as high as $1.73 for every $1.00 invested in the program, making this a cost-effective proposal. Unfortunately, the President and House leaders announced the economic stimulus package would not include the benefit.
“Clearly, there is strong bipartisan support for an increased investment in Food Stamps in the long-term. A short-term increase in a stimulus package would therefore have the double benefit of more quickly making up some of the gap created over the last decade as Food Stamp benefits have eroded,” wrote the Senators.
Feingold is supporting other measures to help spur the economy while helping low and middle income Americans. Feingold is supporting an effort by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to include additional unemployment benefits as part of the economic stimulus package.
In addition to providing much needed assistance to workers who have lost their jobs, experts say extending unemployment benefits can produce returns of up to $1.64 for every $1.00 invested in the program.
Senator Feingold is also supporting state fiscal relief for programs serving low-income individuals, specifically Medicaid. Similar provisions were included in the 2003 stimulus package.