In his regular Wednesday conference call with reporters, Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown said 1.7 million Ohioans who depend on food assistance would be hurt from a loss of SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits if Republicans follow through on their vow to shutdown the federal government over a plan to defund Planned Parenthood.
Unlike the federal government shutdown in 2013, which was estimated to cost about $16 billion, the looming shutdown at the end of the 2015 federal fiscal year, October 1, could result in the loss of food stamps for approximately 45 million Americans who rely on SNAP benefits.
Poverty Up, Jobs Down In Ohio
About 15.2 percent [1.7 million] of Ohioans in 2014 relied on food stamps, with 60 percent being children, nine percent the elderly and ten percent with disabilities. Sen. Brown, elected in 2006 and again in 2012, said he intends to ask his Republican colleagues to pass a clean spending bill.
Reflecting on the last government shutdown by Republicans in Washington, Sen. Brown said any attempt to save money usually ends up costing more. “The same people are saying the same kind of things,” Brown said. “They are playing with fire to win political points on Planned Parenthood. It’s just morally reprehensible.”
Sen. Brown noted that Pope Francis was in Washington today for the first time, meeting President Obama and First Lady Michelle at the White House. Acting as a head of state, not a leader of a world religion, Mr. Brown lamented the Pope’s visit comes on the “brink of another manufactured crisis.”
“Another shutdown would hurt all Americans, but would be particularly hard on those that need the help the most: children, older Americans, and those with disabilities,” Brown said. “It’s time to stop the partisan stunts, and pass a clean continuing resolution, so that these Ohio families don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from,” Sen. Brown said in prepared remarks following the call today.
Sen Brown was joined by Ohio Association of Foodbanks Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, who clarified the challenge a shutdown would mean to the growing population that depend on her network’s limited resources. Ohio ranks high [6th] among states for food insecurity, she said, adding that there are no contingency funds available this time unless Congress acts. She told reporters that one in seven Ohioans face an uphill battle, and that the $210 million in monthly federal assistance cannot be replaced. The federal program called WIC [Women, Infant and Children] that impacts one in every two babies will also be hurt she noted.
“We don’t have large stores of inventory,” she said, as more people turn to Ohio’s network of foodbanks. With slow job growth under Gov. John Kasich, now in its 34th straight month of under-performing the national job creation average, Hamler-Fugitt said Buckeye State incomes are not sufficient, and that shutting down the government as Republicans want to do is “not some gimmick … but a matter of life and death.” She reminded everyone on the call that September is Hunger Awareness Month.
A report last week from the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, shows the child poverty rate is now at 22.9 percent. Asked about the light at the end of the tunnel for her network’s population, Hamler-Fugitt said, “It’s looking pretty bleak. We need leadership all around. We need corporate leadership. Corporations have record profits … they need to start to pay a livable wage.” Other help can come with more full-time jobs, health care, paid time off and an opportunity to save for retirement.
“Some parts of our great state have recovered, but for far too many Ohioans, it hasn’t. All boats should rise as corporate profits are rising, she noted, singling out Nationwide Insurance, headquartered in Columbus, for instituting a $16-dollar-an-hour minimum wage.
Information from Brown’s office notes that the United States Department of Agriculture was able to use remaining Recovery Act funds to continue Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in 2013, but there are equivalent contingency funds to cover the cost of SNAP benefits if the government shuts down in a week.
Pope Francis, Brown Back Iran Deal. Kasich Doesn’t
Pope Francis has come out for President Obama’s negotiated nuclear arms deal with Iran. Sen. Brown is among the 40-plus senators who are also backing it. Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, in step with all other Republicans running for the White House next year, has opposed it.
Asked about how he squares Gov. Kasich’s call for a federal balanced budget amendment with his call for endless war, Sen. Brown called the agreement a great diplomatic accomplishment.
“I voted against the Iraq War, our leaders did not tell the truth, and they did not appropriate dollars for it,” he said. “They refused to scale up the Veterans Administration,” he said, based on the notion that the war would be short. “They were obviously wrong on all three,” he said. “They always have money for war but don’t want to appropriate money for it.”
Brown called on Congress to provide more funding for the VA, and explained his reason for backing Obama’s plan. “My reason to vote for the Iran nuclear deal means it’s less likely to send troops” since the deal puts Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb 10-15 years into the future. “If done right, it would keep weapons out of Iran’s hands for longer than that.”
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