Memo for fiscal year 2020, updated 2019-04-29

[Archived] Question #78: Please provide online comments received regarding Add/Delete proposals.


Please provide online comments received regarding Add/Delete proposals. 


On Thursday, April 18, FYI Alexandria, the City’s official resident newsletter, was released to the community. The first item of this edition requested community input on final budget proposals.

As of April 29, 2019, at 10am, the following comments were received online regarding the City Council Add/Delete proposals. The public comment period on Add/Delete proposals has now been closed.

Comment # 19
Dear Mayor Wilson and Members of the City Council:

I am writing to express my support for funding the expansion of outreach for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the double-dollar SNAP program and urge you to oppose any budget cuts that could weaken access to critical nutrition programs.

Having reliable access to enough food is essential to long-term health and well-being. SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) is proven and effective at helping individuals, families, and seniors avoid hunger and afford nutritious foods. As the cost of living in our city continues to rise and more and more Alexandrians struggle to afford their housing, it is imperative that we maintain a strong nutritional safety net so that residents do not have to choose between paying their rent or mortgage and feeding their families.

The deployment of local outreach dollars not only helps individuals and families in Alexandria access the food they need to thrive but can unlock additional resources at the state level to protect and strengthen the overall function of the program. State SNAP agencies receive federal reimbursement for up to 50 percent of the administrative costs for outreach. Typically, the state agency leverages local spending to unlock a larger reimbursement, which can be used to support future technical assistance for localities, scale promising practices, and expand the resources available to help cities and counties across the Commonwealth promote SNAP.

The request for funding that is before you is about more than expanding a program at a few farmer’s markets. It is an opportunity to lay the foundation for a more robust city-wide SNAP outreach campaign. Failing to expand funding for outreach and additional incentives for the double-dollar SNAP program based on the location of existing farmer’s markets ignores the complex realities of SNAP participation in our city and the lives of the people that depend on SNAP to put food on the table.

According to Hunger Free Alexandria, thousands of people in our community who are SNAP-eligible are not receiving benefits. In the wake of the Trump Administration’s hateful and racist rhetoric on immigration and poverty, there are numerous misconceptions about program eligibility and stigma about receiving food assistance, which threaten to increase the number of people who are food insecure. Additional funding for outreach raises awareness about the SNAP program and connects eligible residents to this important resource, which can be used at food retailers across the City. Now more than ever, the City of Alexandria needs funding to support a robust outreach campaign that connects residents with the facts about SNAP.

The double-dollar SNAP program not only benefits low-income families, it stimulates our local economy. Every $1 in SNAP benefits generates $1.70 in local economic activity, which is essential to create the jobs and opportunities to help move our lower-income residents to greater economic security.

While it is true that there is a higher concentration of SNAP recipients on the West End, there are pockets of need in all areas of our city and many people are just one job loss or one illness away from needing SNAP to help feed their families. An approach to addressing hunger and food insecurity that assumes there are not SNAP-eligible individuals who live or work near the Old Town Farmer’s market undercounts the thousands of individuals not currently receiving benefits. As a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and other hunger-related volunteer organizations, I have made countless trips to high rises in Old Town with large concentrations of seniors who are struggling to afford the nutritious food they need to age healthfully in place. Increasing their purchasing power though the double-dollar SNAP program at nearby markets can help them purchase more of the fruits and vegetables they need.

One of the primary benefits of SNAP is that the benefit moves with the recipient. Benefits are loaded onto a payment card — much like a debit card — and can be used at most food retailers. Having the double-dollar program at markets throughout the city and not just in areas of concentrated poverty can provide important access points for lower-wage workers who commute into other areas of the City to support the tourism and hospitality industries that Alexandria depends on. Expanding the double-dollar program at existing markets can increase choice and opportunities for residents to utilize their benefits throughout the city as they commute to work and/or other activities.

While I agree that City resources should be targeted to communities with the greatest need, the solution to enhancing our nutritional safety net is not to cut resources. The right path forward is to protect and strengthen existing programs while expanding access across the city to ensure that all communities are served. If we do not invest in existing infrastructure we risk weakening the effectiveness of current programs and miss opportunities to connect eligible residents to the program.

I recommend that the City:

As you have stated previously, the City needs a budget that meets our community’s needs and reflects our values. The SNAP program is considered the nation’s first defense against hunger and is a powerful tool that can help advance Alexandria’s commitment to thriving children and youth, a strong economy, and inclusivity by ensuring all residents have the nutrition they need to be healthy and thrive.

The local effectiveness of the SNAP program depends on the continued support of elected officials like you. Now is a time to protect and strengthen SNAP, expand access, and look for additional opportunities to ensure that all residents have access to the nutrition they need to thrive. I urge you pass a budget that fully funds SNAP outreach and double-dollar SNAP program expansion.

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