More About Stacy Dean

Stacy Dean

As Vice President for Food Assistance Policy, Dean works extensively with program administrators, policymakers, and non-profit organizations to improve the food stamp program and provide eligible low-income families easier access to its benefits.

Full bio and recent public appearances | Research archive at CBPP.org


Simplifying the Child Care Eligibility “Maze”

December 17, 2013 at 11:58 am

An important way to help low-income working families meet their basic needs and improve their lives is to make sure they receive the work supports for which they qualify, such as health coverage, food assistance, and child care assistance.  A new report from the Urban Institute and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) explains how states can simplify their child care subsidy programs — which help cover low-income families’ child care costs so the parents can get and keep jobs — to better serve families.

The report is part of the foundation-funded initiative Work Support Strategies, through which CBPP, the Urban Institute, and CLASP work with selected states to streamline the delivery of health and human services to low-income working families.

The report outlines an approach in which eligible parents applying for child care assistance give their information once, are then connected not only to child care assistance but also other benefits for which they are eligible, and can keep the full package of benefits as long as they are eligible — all of it with minimal red tape.  That reduces burdens on low-income families and the state.

The report will be an important resource for states seeking to simplify and streamline their child care programs as well as facilitate connections between child care and other key work supports, such as SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

For more general information on why it’s so vital to deliver work supports more efficiently, the improvements made in recent years, and the steps that states can take, see this CBPP report.

Hardship in America, 2013: SNAP Helps Many Afford an Adequate Diet

November 26, 2013 at 10:59 am

As many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving by sharing an elaborate meal with friends and family, it’s important to remember that many other Americans lack the resources to meet their basic food needs.  The share of American households that had trouble affording adequate food at some point in the year jumped in 2008 due to the recession and has remained high (see graph).  More than 17 million households, containing 49 million people, were “food insecure” last year.

Millions more households would lack access to adequate food if it weren’t for SNAP (formerly known as food stamps).   SNAP serves as a safety net for low-income people who are elderly, disabled, or temporarily unemployed, and it supplements the wages of low-income workers:

  • Four in five SNAP recipients either work or cannot work because they are children, seniors, or have disabilities.  Children alone make up nearly half of SNAP recipients.
  • Four in five SNAP recipients have gross incomes below the poverty line, which is about $23,500 for a family of four and $11,500 for a single person living alone, such as an elderly widow.  Two in five SNAP households have incomes below half of the poverty line.
  • Three in four new SNAP recipients leave the program within two years.  Half receive benefits for ten months or less.

Congress is debating SNAP’s future in negotiations over a Farm Bill.  The House has passed a bill that would cut nearly 4 million people off the program, including some of the poorest Americans, many children and seniors, and even veterans.  Harsh cuts like these, at a time of extraordinary need, would leave many more households in this land of plenty unable to afford an adequate diet.

Setting the Record Straight on SNAP, Part 10: Cantor’s Misleading Defense of the House SNAP Bill

September 19, 2013 at 12:47 pm

House Majority Leader Cantor has responded to some of our criticisms, as well as those of faith leaders, service providers, and policymakers, on the new House Republican proposal to cut nearly 4 million people off SNAP in 2014, which the House will vote on later today.  His response, like earlier statements from House leaders, misrepresents the House bill.

Let’s look at two examples from Rep. Cantor’s defense of the provision from Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) that lets states end benefits for people who aren’t working or enrolled in job training, even if the state doesn’t offer them a job training slot.

First, Cantor argues, the provision wouldn’t harm those willing to work because “there is more than enough federal funding already for job training programs which SNAP recipients can enroll in to fulfill the work requirements.”

In fact, there is a large shortage of slots for the substantial number of unemployed workers who are seeking job training.  Existing employment and training programs simply cannot absorb large numbers of new participants.

Federal funding for adult job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) has been cut by roughly one-third since 2001 in inflation-adjusted dollars, even before the deeper cuts that sequestration has imposed.  At least 48 states have waiting lists for WIA-funded services for very low-skilled adults lacking basic education, and the share of low‐income people who receive intensive job training services through WIA has fallen substantially in recent years.

In addition, much of the non-SNAP federal funding for job training goes to targeted populations, like people with disabilities or dislocated workers, many of whom do not qualify for SNAP.  Finally, most people who receive intensive job training services through WIA are not low-income adults.  WIA has no income eligibility limits, and its incentives actually discourage programs from serving the most disadvantaged workers.

Second, Cantor defends a feature of the Southerland provision that encourages states to cut unemployed people off SNAP by giving them large cash payments for cutting their SNAP caseloads — regardless of whether the states end SNAP for jobless workers without offering them a real work opportunity or providing training that leads to better jobs.

“The critics,” Cantor said, “can’t have it both ways — they can’t complain that the House bill doesn’t provide additional resources for state activities to ensure compliance with the work requirements and then turn around and complain that the work requirement gives the states more money.”

But, the provision lets states use the payments from cutting people off SNAP for any purpose, including tax cuts and special-interest subsidies or plugging holes in state budgets. That is, states wouldn’t have to use any of the money to expand job training.

Rep. Cantor’s statements to the contrary, the simple fact is this:

The House SNAP bill would let states cut poor people off SNAP even if they are actively looking for work, even if they’re on a waiting list for job training, and even if they’re working, but for less than 20 hours a week while they try to find a full-time job.

Setting the Record Straight on SNAP, Part 2: The Truth About Unemployed Childless Adults

September 10, 2013 at 3:46 pm

House Republican leaders would have Americans believe that large numbers of young men have chosen to try to live on SNAP benefits alone (which average under $1.40 per person per meal across all SNAP recipients, as the first post in this series noted) in order to avoid work and go surfing.  Nonsense.

The unemployed childless adults who receive SNAP — one group targeted by the emerging House Republican plan to cut several million people from the program — look quite different from this caricature, as this infographic shows.  (Click here for a full-sized version.)

Our recent paper on this part of the Republican plan has more details on this population:

[They] are extremely poor, and many are destitute.  While on SNAP, their monthly gross incomes average only 22 percent of the poverty line, or $2,500 when measured on an annual basis in 2013.  Their SNAP benefits will average just $160 per person per month in 2014.

Demographically, the group is diverse.  More than 40 percent are women.  One-third (34 percent) are over age 40.  Some 37 percent of the women who would lose benefits are over age 40.

Among those who report their race, about half are white (not Hispanic), a third are African American (not Hispanic), one in ten is Hispanic, and about 5 percent are Native American.

Close to a third have less than a high school degree.  Half have a high school diploma or GED, and just one in five has some college education.

Among the 83 percent for whom metropolitan status is available in the Census data, about 40 percent lived in urban areas, another 40 percent lived in suburban areas, and 20 percent lived in rural areas. . . .

Most of these childless adults are ineligible for any other federal income assistance — or, in most states, for any state or local cash assistance, no matter how poor they are.

The 1996 welfare law, which limits unemployed childless adults to three months of SNAP benefits out of every three years, also allows states to request temporary waivers from the three-month limit when unemployment is high and jobs are scarce.  Most states got these waivers during the recent recession and its aftermath, under standards that have been in place for over 15 years.

The three-month limit will gradually come back into effect as the economy continues to improve (there still are about three unemployed workers for every available position) and many fewer areas qualify for waivers.  As a result, this vulnerable group will lose food assistance even under current law.  But that’s not fast enough for House Republican leaders, who propose restoring the three-month rule immediately across the country and prohibiting further waivers, regardless of how deep future recessions are and whether jobs are available.

Next up:  SNAP’s strong record of efficiency.

Setting the Record Straight on SNAP, Part 1: Overview

September 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm

With the House expected to vote in coming weeks on a proposal to “mindlessly gut” SNAP (formerly food stamps), as today’s New York Times editorial puts it, proponents are circulating misleading information about both the program and the proposed cuts.  We will be issuing a series of posts, of which this is the first, that aims to set the record straight.

For this one, let’s review the basics.  The nation’s most important anti-hunger program, SNAP provides modest benefits — less than $1.40 per person per meal next year — to help low-income families afford adequate food.  SNAP households have very low incomes:  four of five are below the poverty line ($23,550 for a family for four in 2013), and two of five are below half the poverty line (see chart).

Close to two-thirds of recipients are children, elderly, or disabled.  Most SNAP families that include at least one working-age, non-disabled adult are working households.  (See our chartbook for more information.)

As our new paper explains, the emerging proposal from House Republican leaders would push at least 4 million people off SNAP by cutting the program by some $40 billion over ten years — almost nine times the cut in the farm bill that the Senate passed in June.

The proposal includes the $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts in the farm bill that the House rejected in June, plus new provisions designed to cut at least another $20 billion in benefits.

The low-income people who face the loss of food assistance include many:

  • poor, unemployed, childless adult individuals who live in areas of high unemployment — whose average income is only 22 percent of the poverty line, or about $2,500 a year— even if they want to work but can’t find a job or an opening in a training program;
  • other poor, unemployed parents who want to work but can’t find a job or job training; and
  • people who have gross incomes or assets modestly above the federal SNAP limits but disposable income (the income that a family actually has available to spend on food and other needs) below the poverty line in most cases, often because of high rent or child care costs.  Most of these people are working families or seniors.

Next up:  correcting misinformation about poor childless adults and SNAP.