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July 29, 2008

Congresswoman Velázquez Provides Needed Support for New York City Job Seekers with New Food Stamp Initiative

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Faced with the rising cost of food, energy and healthcare, many New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet.  Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez today unveiled legislation that would expand the food stamps program to allow New Yorkers to keep food on the table while they search for work.  She was joined at Bushwick’s Family Services Network of New York by Commissioner David Hansel of the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Executive Deputy Commissioner Mario Musolino of the NYS Department of Labor, Executive Director Joel Berg of the NYC Coalition Against Hunger and other hunger advocates who lent their support to these latest efforts. 

“With the high cost of living in our City, unemployed workers are especially vulnerable to the declining economy,” said Congresswoman Velázquez.  “By extending the food stamps benefits, we can provide New Yorkers with the resources needed to make it out of this crisis and strengthen our City’s workforce.” 

The “Food Security Act of 2008” would extend to 12 months the amount of time that Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) are eligible to receive food stamp assistance.  Under current law, these unemployed workers can only receive three months of food stamp benefits for every 36 month period in which they are out of work.  With the tightening job market, it now takes one out of every five unemployed workers six months or more to secure a new job.  The Congresswoman’s reforms to the food stamp program could be implemented quickly and cover the gap during those extra months it often takes to find employment.

“When New Yorkers find their resources stretched thin, the food stamp program puts meals on millions of tables. Extending the program would offer fast relief for those struggling to make ends meet,” Congresswoman Velázquez said.

The additional food stamp coverage provided in the Congresswoman’s legislation is increasingly important in New York City, where 1.6 million residents reported in 2007 that they would not be able to afford needed food after the loss of their household income.  This number is up an alarming 23 percent in the past four years.   In addition, extending food stamps has been found to be the most effective way to stimulate the economy, providing a nearly $2 boost to the gross domestic product (GDP) for every $1 of benefit.  That is far more than the economic benefit of extending the Bush Administration’s income tax cuts, because food stamp benefits are spent within the matter of a few weeks.   

“Food stamp dollars go right back into the local economy, providing support for those in need and bolstering local businesses,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. 

Recent reports from the U.S. Department of Labor reveal that the national unemployment rate jumped more in May than any single month over the past two decades.  In total, 438,000 jobs disappeared in the first six months of the year.  Minority communities across the country are suffering some of the highest rates of unemployment, with 9.7% of African Americans and 6.9% of Latinos reported jobless.   In June 2008, New York State had 505,100 jobless workers – an 18% increase over the previous year. 

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