Monday, February 22, 2010

Bad policy, bad business

I keep running across really disheartening statistics about the status of public benefits for low-income Texas children and families. 

Consider just in the area of nutrition:
  • Out of over 300,000 eligible Dallas area children, < 9% receive the benefits of the Texas Summer Lunch Program.
  • Only 41% of eligible families receive the benefits afforded by SNAP (the Texas Food Stamp program).
But, bad policy also turns out to be really bad business for Texas and for Dallas, as well.
  • Vendors prepare and sell those summer meals, putting money into our local economy, creating jobs and supporting business services.
  • Dallas County loses an estimated $500,000,000 annually in retail groceries sales because of our inability or unwillingness to register everyone who is eligible for SNAP, funds lost to local businesses.
Funny how that works, isn't it? 

Bad, unconcerned policy translates to terrible business outcomes. 

When will we wake up in Texas and make sure that Texas tax dollars stay or return to Texas in ways that benefit those in need of a lift, as well as those driving our local economy. 

What affects one sector, affects all sectors. 


Anonymous said...

Where did you get this at. The figure is absurd!
"Dallas County loses an estimated $500,000,000 annually in retail groceries sales"

Larry James said...

That is the amount of Food Stamp dollars that could be drawn down by eligible residents in Dallas Co. who don't enroll for the benefit, but who qualify. The loss is not just to low-income working people, but to retail/club grocery stores. Data comes from state sources.

I did a study several years ago and my research showed that the county lost over $250MM annually at that time, but my estimates were based on very conservative assumptions. Still, you see that public benefit is not just about the poor, but also about business and the local economy.

Anonymous said...

Now I understand, this is an estimate with a multiplier, as dreamed up by some economist. Its not really factual at all. BTW, the amount you note is about the same as the 2009 budget for the entire county operation at 512 million usd.

Anonymous said...

There's something to be said for not training the next generation to depend on welfare.

Larry James said...

Unfortunately, the facts remain the same. Those dollars are lost to local retail grocry outlets and are used mostly by working families whose wages are not high enough to sustain them, as well as by children and the elderly. But social benefit aside, the loss to the economy is staggering. And, there is no real tax savings. What you and I paid last year is not drawn back to Texas, but is being used in other states across the country.

As to getting the next generation off welfare, that process begain in earnest in 1996 under President Clinton. The welfare system is nothing like what you may assume and is reserved mainly for children and the elderly these days.

Sandra said...

Larry, I'm ignorant as to who or what agency/group is responsible for seeing that worthy persons are enabled to get this kind of help and why they aren't doing something about it.

Larry James said...

Sandra, that would be the State of Texas Dept of Health and Human Services and the Texas Dept of Agriculture. We always under perform and lose money as a result.