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


Do Medicaid and SNAP Reach Those Who Most Need Them?

September 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Millions of low-income people qualify for both Medicaid and SNAP (formerly food stamps), but the federal government doesn’t regularly assess how many of them actually receive both.  That’s a significant omission: Medicaid and SNAP address the most basic needs of our poorest citizens, and health care and nutrition assistance likely produce more powerful results when provided together.  A new Urban Institute paper examining joint participation among eligible children and non-elderly adults in five states — something the federal government could do for all states every year — suggests there is substantial room for improvement.

Urban Institute researchers calculated joint participation rates for 2011 in Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  (These states participate in the Work Support Strategies initiative, which is developing and testing better ways to deliver key supports for low-income working families.)  They found significant gaps in joint enrollment: in four of the states, only about two-thirds of non-elderly adults and children who were eligible for both Medicaid and SNAP actually received both (see graph).

The findings are consistent with our 2011 report’s finding that a large share of poor children — who are very likely eligible for both Medicaid and SNAP — aren’t enrolled in both.

(To be sure, both findings predate health reform implementation, so they don’t reflect participation of many newly eligible low-income adults in states that expanded Medicaid.  Nor do they reflect the major changes in Medicaid application and enrollment systems that health reform requires in order to improve participation.)

Over 40 states co-administer Medicaid and SNAP for low-income families, often using joint forms, the same computer systems, and the same eligibility workers, so one program’s performance often depends on the other’s.  Yet the federal agencies that oversee the two programs issue program policy, oversee operations, and assess state performance on the two programs separately.

States are key partners in delivering the safety net, so it’s important to take a holistic view of their performance, not just a program-by-program approach.  An annual federal assessment of the share of Medicaid- and SNAP-eligible people in each state who actually receive both would better inform federal and state officials on how well we serve our poorest families and individuals.

CLASP: State Experiences Show Safety Net Programs Don’t Need Massive Overhaul to Work Better

July 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

As House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan prepares to unveil his proposal to address poverty, Olivia Golden of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) today took a closer look at the experiences of six states to debunk common myths about the delivery of safety net programs.

Golden writes:

[S]ome commenters have criticized major anti-poverty programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) as so complex, rigid, difficult to administer, and impossible to package together that they need fundamental change.  These critics’ recommended changes include merging the programs into a block grant, allowing states discretion over major program provisions through waivers, or delegating discretion below the level of states, to local governments or case managers.

These proposals are deeply risky for families. . . . And we just don’t need to take those risks.  New information from the states continues to build the evidence that massive overhaul is simply not necessary to achieve the goal of more streamlined and integrated program administration.

Golden explained that the experiences of the six states involved in the Work Support Strategies (WSS) initiative — a project coordinated by CBPP, CLASP, and the Urban Institute that is designing, testing, and implementing more effective, streamlined, and integrated approaches to delivering key supports for low-income working families — offer lessons for how to improve safety net programs.

She concluded:

Rather than let myths drive suggested remedies to the safety net, let’s build on success and follow the evidence about what changes can really make a difference.  Rather than massive overhauls that would only undercut effective programs, we need to build on what some states are already doing:  delivering health and nutrition assistance, help with child care, and other core work supports smoothly, speedily, and as an integrated package to all eligible families.

Click here to read the full piece.

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.