November 16, 2023
By: Julie Kronick, Jenny Veloz, & Juan Diaz
Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, friends and family are gearing up for cozy get togethers to celebrate with a delicious meal. It’s a time of year that brings everyone together and asks us to give thanks for the comforts we have and share. It’s also an important time to draw attention to our neighbors who are struggling and may not have access to the comforts of a stable home and warm holiday meal, but to also highlight what we can do to advocate for change. November 11 to November 18 marked national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, and there is a lot to discuss here in New York City around what solutions are possible.
Nationwide, food insecurity continues to worsen. 12.8% of households (17 million households) reported being food insecure in 2022, an increase from 10.2% (13.5 million households) in 2021. In households with children, 17.3% reported being food insecure. We know from data that policies strengthening investments in benefits and cash assistance programs lift families and children out of poverty, specifically when it comes to food insecurity. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is the largest federal program aimed at combating hunger and food insecurity among low-income Americans. SNAP is a lifeline for nearly 3 million New Yorkers, and during the Covid-19 crisis we saw the SNAP emergency allotments (EAs) (temporary increase in monthly benefits) push back against hunger in a big way. An Urban Institute study estimated that EAs kept 4.2 million people above the poverty line in the last quarter of 2021, reducing poverty by 10 percent, and child poverty by 14 percent. Despite inflation rates soaring between 2022 and 2023, with data showing food prices increased by 9.9% in 2022, the EAs ended, setting NY households back an average of $151 per month. On top of this, the latest report from The Robin Hood Foundation shows that food hardship increased from 2021 to 2022—rising from 39% to 43% among NYC families with children.
Average loss for households in SNAP benefits when the EAs ended in March 2023
Rate of timely (within 30 days) food stamp processing for families utilizing SNAP
CCC is a member of the NYC Food Policy Alliance, and as such we are pushing out take actions to demand funding for both SNAP at the state level and WIC at the federal level. Take action to call on New York State to set a minimum SNAP benefit of $100 per month in the 2024-2025 Executive Budget here. CCC has also submitted testimony on the significant delays in benefit access and application processing for NYC families entitled to economic supports, including SNAP, as revealed in the Mayor’s September Management Report (MMR). The MMR shows that the number of NYC households receiving SNAP has increased between FY22 and FY23 but that the rate of timely food stamp processing took a steep drop from 91.9% when Adams first took office to a startling 39.7% this past year. From the testimony: “While more people are applying for SNAP, more people are waiting more than the federally mandated 30 days. These wait times affect the health and well-being of children and families.” You can read more about CCC’s recommendations to address these issues in the testimony here. Processing benefits in a timely manner, as well as ensuring these benefits adequately provide for families given the cost of living, are both straightforward solutions to help keep children above the poverty line in NYC and NYS.
This testimony also speaks to solutions for delays in processing housing application approvals and handling the increases in emergency rental assistance applications. As you have most likely read in many articles and posts, NYC has been facing the worst homelessness crisis since the Great Depression, with families languishing in shelters for over a year on average (about 14 months) and NYC Department of Homeless (DHS) Services shelters at capacity for months on end. According to data tracked from DHS by CCC and the Family Homelessness Coalition (FHC), of which we are a member and co-convener, as of November 13, 2023, 33,160 children are staying in NYC DHS shelters. See more visuals and data on families experiencing homelessness here. Having a safe and comfortable place to grow and learn is imperative to child well-being, and we have solutions that help people find stable, permanent housing that cost less than keeping them in shelters. That is why CCC and FHC have both been staunch supporters of expanding CityFHEPS (housing vouchers) to make more families eligible to apply. It not only makes moral sense to implement a housing-first solution to our current crisis, but it saves the city overall to keep families out of shelter or allow them to leave shelter more quickly should they enter at all. In an Insight written after the CityFHEPS bill package passed in July, a number of data was cited explaining the cost savings. For instance, Community Service Society of New York data from the summer showed the different costs of housing a family of three per night: a traditional shelter costs the city $188 per night or $383 per night if it’s an emergency hotel shelter, but only $72 a night for that same family to use a housing voucher. There is also compelling research from the Housing First program, where chronically homeless people with a behavioral condition diagnosis received supportive housing in over 10 cities in the U.S. and Canada, showing that providing permanent housing increased household earnings by an average of $10,000 per year, while also saving taxpayers an average of $12,000 per year per person. This complements NYC-specific data on annual savings the city would secure by preventing eviction and really embracing housing-first policies.
Cost difference for a family to use a housing voucher vs stay in an NYC shelter for a night
Number of children sleeping in DHS shelters per night in November
But these supports will only serve the city and its families effectively if they are utilized appropriately and given out in a timely manner. That falls on both eligibility and adequate staffing of the departments that handle benefit processing. This is why CCC is focused on advocating against the Mayor’s proposed 15% budget cuts from city services. From CCC’s testimony previously mentioned: “The Mayor’s proposed 15% budget cuts to agencies like the Department of Social Services ($1.4 billion cut) and Department of Homeless Services ($800 million cut) will exacerbate an already problematic situation of individuals and families not receiving benefits, such as SNAP, cash assistance and housing vouchers, on time.” We encourage you to read our policy and investment recommendations from this testimony to learn more.
There will be opportunities in the coming months to help us advocate for stronger investments that reduce food insecurity and connect families with stable housing. These solutions are not only possible, they are achievable with the right policies in place and CCC will continue to push these opportunities forward with your help. Look out for future take action campaigns to support these efforts. As mentioned CCC is part of the Family Homelessness Coalition and the NYC Food Policy Alliance, focusing on housing security and food security, including free school meals, WIC investments, a state-wide Housing Access Voucher Program, and more. Read more into our policy advocacy here and check out more Insight posts on connecting data to solutions and beyond.