How Trump’s SNAP cuts will hurt people leaving prison, report | Friday Morning Coffee

December 6, 2019 6:46 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It’s already well-established that the Trump White House’s cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will visit needless misery on hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable among us, including tens of thousands of people right here in Pennsylvania.

But as our colleagues as The Appeal report, the policy also could have some severe consequences for a cohort of people facing challenges enough as they try to find their way in the world: Those who have been recently released from prison, and who already “face enormous barriers to employment,” The Appeal reports.

As The Appeal notes, current federal law ties SNAP eligibility to employment. Right now, “adults without disabilities who don’t live with dependents are only eligible for three months in any 36-month period unless they are employed or in a work training program for at least 20 hours a week,” The Appeal reports.

That quarterly cut-off is “‘one of the harshest rules” of SNAP,’ according to the Center on Budget and Policy PrioritiesThe Appeal reports. And state governments, meanwhile, “are under no obligation to offer work or training programs and most do not,” the online news org notes.

The bottom line?

“‘SNAP recipients’ benefits are generally cut off after three months irrespective of whether they are searching diligently for a job or willing to participate in a qualifying work or job training program,’”  The Appeal continued, citing the CBPP. “The effect is that ‘this rule is, in reality, a time limit on benefits and not a work requirement, as it is sometimes described.’”

A waiver can provide some, but not much, relief, The Appeal further reports.

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So what does that mean for formerly incarcerated people returning to society?

From The Appeal:

“The just-announced rule will have serious consequences for people with criminal legal system involvement.

Center for American Progress report from March was clear about the implications of such a change. It pointed to the nearly 9 in 10 employers who use criminal background checks in hiring which means that ‘even an old, minor criminal record can serve as a life sentence to poverty and joblessness.’

The unemployment rate among formerly incarcerated individuals is approximately 27 percent and ‘one study shows that 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals. remain unemployed one year following their release.’”

Formerly incarcerated people are at their most vulnerable in the period immediately after they return home. And while SNAP benefits are comparably small, about $127 a month, they make an enormous difference for both individuals and families.

“The economic margins for the formerly incarcerated are narrower than many of us can imagine,” Alex Busansky of Impact Justice, and Gary Maynard, a former head of the American Correctional Associationobserved in a Washington Post op-Ed in 2018 (via The Appeal). “Median annual income right after release from prison is about $6,500—effectively, a state of deep poverty. Today, around 70 percent of those released depend on SNAP two months later to survive.”

So even as progressives and conservatives work together in good conscience to reform a parole and probation system that too often lands people back in jail for the wrong reasons, the Trump administration is moving ahead with a plan that knock the legs out from under that effort in a real and measurable way.

People who can’t afford to feed themselves and their families often turn to desperate means to make that happen.

It’s another sad case of not recognizing the through-lines of policy.

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison leads our coverage this morning, with the news that Gov. Tom Wolf has commuted the sentences for 8 people, bringing his clemency total to 19 — the third-highest among Pa. governors.

State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, D-Philadelphia, who faces embezzlement charges, will resign from the state House on Dec. 13, Stephen Caruso reports.

And state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, who’s the Legislature’s most vocal climate change denier, has been tapped to sit on a panel charged with reviewing the state’s plans to combat … climate changeStephen Caruso has the story.Pennsylvania

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has joined with 20 other states on an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject Louisiana’s abortion restrictionsWashington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender reports.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: Facing a mayoral veto, Philadelphia City Council agreed Thursday to push back start date of changes to the city’s tax abatement program.

On our Commentary Page: A UMass/Boston professor looks at the true cost of growing old in America. Your newsletter author suggests that U.S. House Republicans only showed off their ignorance as they grilled a trio of law school professors Wednesday. And a Temple University Law prof says Pa’s charter school law needs to be reformed to both foster innovation and bolster accountability.

Comcast exec David L. Cohen in 2017 (Image via Flickr Commons)

 boss David L. Cohen is a major player in presidential politics. But he might not have the clout in Philly politics that he used to, the Inquirer reports.
Racism, as a matter of a public health, was the subject of a Pittsburgh City Council meeting, the Post-Gazette reports.
A local police chief’s stepson in northwestern Pennsylvania has been caught up in that viral deer-torture video. Prosecutors say they won’t play favorites, PennLive reports.
U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, D-7th District, says she’s ‘mostly likely’ to support at least one article of impeachment that the House will bring against President Donald Trump, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

Philadelphia is on the verge of banning single-use plastic bags, WHYY-FM reports.
Mental health groups are lobbying to restore $84 million in public fundingWITF-FM reports.
The annual Pennsylvania Society celebration is underway in NYC. PoliticsPA has the full schedule of events.
Trump country has seen some of the biggest dips — and increases — in per-capita income, reports.
Judiciary Committee Dems expect to work through the weekend on impeachment, Roll Call reports.

Gov. Tom Wolf
 has no public schedule today.

What Goes On.
10 a.m., East Rotunda:
 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day observance.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Belated best wishes go out this morning to our former PennLive colleague Chris Mautner, who celebrated on Thursday. And best wishes go out this morning to Democratic activist Zainab Javed, who celebrates today. Congratulations, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
We’re absolutely bonkers for this cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven,’ by Vincenzo and Minako. Play this loud. Dance around your office. It’s Friday, after all.

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
 got past San Jose 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday night.

And now you’re up to date. 

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.