Dear Chairman Jordan and Ranking Member Kucinich:
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement for the record on behalf of Feeding America as the subcommittee conducts its hearing on"Duplication, Overlap, and Inefficiencies in Federal Welfare Programs." Feeding America is the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity with a network of more than 200 food banks serving over 37 million people across all 50 states, through over 61,000 local food assistance agencies, more than 55 percent of which are faith-based. Feeding America food banks as well as our partner food assistance agencies rely on a variety of public and private funding streams to meet the need in local communities across America.
During the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the number of American families struggling to make ends meet has increased significantly. With unemployment still hovering near 9 percent, the need for food assistance remains high in communities across our nation and nutrition assistance programs provide a critical lifeline to families in need. In addition to protecting millions of families from hunger, federal nutrition assistance programs provide a solid return on taxpayer investment, help reduce state government and private sector health costs, and invest in a healthy future workforce.
Our food banks and the clients they serve know all too well the importance of stretching every dollar. Given the extent of hunger and food insecurity in our country, it is important that we maximize the impact of each dollar spent through our network of emergency food providers. Likewise, we believe that federal tax dollars should be spent effectively and efficiently to ensure a strong and responsive nutritional safety net.
We support efforts to eliminate duplication in program delivery. However, it is important to keep in mind that programs with overlapping eligibility are not per se indicative of duplication. Nutrition programs work together to weave a comprehensive safety net and no one program is intended to meet the needs of all populations. Federal nutrition programs have been developed to respond to identified nutritional needs of specific populations or to reach eligible people in settings not addressed by other existing programs.
We also support efforts to eliminate inefficiencies and streamline program administration. In many cases, the same changes that would result in administrative savings would also reduce barriers to enrollment, such as streamlining the application and eligibility-determination process.
As Congress and the Administration work to identify opportunities to streamline programs and eliminate redundancy, we must ensure that such efforts are undertaken with thoughtfulness and careful deliberation. Our ultimate goal must be to better deliver benefits more effectively to all eligible people. As such, we offer the following principles to guide your work:
Benefit Adequacy–Programs must provide resources sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of participants and any savings from greater efficiencies should be reinvested in improving benefit adequacy.
Participation–Programs should be designed and implemented in ways that promote participation by all people in need of food assistance and savings should not be achieved by reducing eligibility or imposing access barriers.
Coordination–Enrollment in nutrition assistance programs should be streamlined and integrated where possible with enrollment in other Federal programs serving low-income people, and eligibility rules should be consistent across programs.
Data-Driven–Any changes to nutrition assistance programs, including those intended to eliminate duplication and inefficiency, must be data-driven and undertaken only after careful study and analysis of the potential impact on benefit levels, eligibility, and participation.
Stakeholder Input–Recommendations should be developed in collaboration with stakeholder input from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, including those responsible for administering programs at the federal and state level and those providing delivery of services and benefits to low-income families at the local level.
Hunger hits every community in America, and the need for food assistance is projected to remain high for several years to come. While we support your goal of eliminating duplication and inefficiencies in federal assistance programs, we urge you to ensure that such changes are made carefully and with the goal of improving service delivery, increasing program access, and strengthening benefit levels so that together we may end hunger and food insecurity in America.
Senior Vice President of Government Relations
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