BDT Broadcast: Our Solutions to Help States Reduce Poverty Now
Dear Friends of BDT,
Chief among the takeaways from last week’s new Census data is that government assistance programs lifted millions of people out of poverty last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, this significant news — especially a record drop in child poverty — hides the fact that millions of eligible families still do not have the means to buy a better bag of groceries or pay for medications because benefit programs, and their requirements, are too often complicated and confusing to access.
The cost is steep; Benefits Data Trust has previously shared that more than $60 billion a year in safety net programs is unnecessarily left on the table, impeding us from building a stronger and healthier society. Our latest review of data found that number has now grown to an estimated $80 billion, in large part due to the new Affordable Connectivity Program that helps households pay for monthly internet service.
Getting available assistance into the hands of people who need it — and making sure those eligible maintain it when certain pandemic relief measures expire — is vital to reducing the number of people in poverty, improving health, and creating pathways to economic mobility. Modernizing our benefits programs can make our country even stronger in the future. We look forward to these issues being a focus of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Sept. 28.
Helping States Keep Eligible Families Insured
Our mission to ensure families have dignified and streamlined access to assistance calls for close, collaborative work with state and federal agencies to help influence positive change at scale in benefits access. In May, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we launched a year-long learning collaborative with Medicaid agencies in six states to keep millions of eligible people covered when the federal public health emergency ends.
Through this initiative, we are providing the agencies with individually-tailored technical assistance to develop and advance policies and practices that reduce Medicaid churn. As the project progresses, BDT will disseminate best practices, lessons learned, and other announcements — we encourage you to check out our Medicaid Churn Toolkit and follow along as we work to improve health equity and economic mobility nationwide.
Leveraging SNAP as Food Prices Surge
In 2021, 34 million people across the country were food insecure — that’s 10% of the population. Now, as costs for food items from eggs to potatoes have risen, households with low incomes continue to face difficult financial decisions.
Safety net programs can be life-altering, making the difference between weathering a storm or confronting harsh realities like skipping meals to save money. Notably, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a lifeline for millions of young children, their parents, and older retirees when it comes to keeping food on the table. Not only that, but SNAP is proven to improve health and lower healthcare costs.
In our recent blog, BDT Policy Analyst Miriam Lipschutz makes the case for leveraging text message outreach to make SNAP more accessible, and discusses the importance of harnessing these programs to fight hunger across the country.
In Case You Missed It
- Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2021 (census.gov)
- Expanded Safety Net Drives Sharp Drop in Child Poverty - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
- Center on Budget & Policy Priorities: No Notice of the PHE End Gives States Time to Prepare for Medicaid Unwinding
- USDA: Household Food Security in the United States in 2021 (September 7)