State must restore funding for anti-hunger programs
Anti-hunger advocates were pleased that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s written State of the State address included 10 pages devoted to the problem of hunger and the need for action. Unfortunately, hunger did not make it into the speech he delivered.
Anti-hunger advocates were stunned when the governor’s budget proposals eliminated direct funding allocations for critical anti-hunger programs such as HPNAP (funding for emergency food) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children). Instead, they were lumped together into a new “block grant” with other programs in the Health Department. The amount of funding proposed for these programs was a $13 million cut from prior funding levels.
Since the Great Recession started in 2007, the number of people fed at emergency food programs (EFPs) has increased by more than 60 percent, while state funding has remained stable and federal funding has been cut. Two-thirds of the programs said that their funding from government and private donations has dropped, while 90 percent saw more guests this year. Even the state agency that works with EFPs had recommended a $10 million increase in funding for emergency food.
A recent statewide survey of such programs by the Hunger Action Network found that 20 percent of the 3 million guests are seniors, a big increase. Unfortunately, Cuomo is proposing to keep the same funding level for the Meals on Wheels programs.
More than a third of the guests at EFPs are the working poor. Anti-hunger advocates were glad that the governor proposed an increase in the state minimum wage to $8.75 an hour, but were disappointed that he failed to support indexing it to inflation like many other states do. Most anti-hunger advocates have been asking for a minimum wage of at least $10 an hour, with indexing.
The governor’s budget largely ignored that much of the state is still hurting from the Great Recession. Governments at all levels need to increase their investment in targeted job creation and overall spending to stimulate the economy.
Mark A. Dunlea
Executive Director, Hunger Action Network of New York State