Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Public benefits benefit all of us. . .
That said, we often over look the fact that these benefits designed to lift "the poor" also benefit the rest of us. For example, SNAP funds (food stamps) are spent in retail grocery stores who benefit from the purchases the public benefits make possible. SNAP is a huge positive to Kroger's bottom line, resulting in jobs, dividends to share holders and economic growth in the community overall.
What is true of SNAP funds is also true of other public benefits received by low-income families. In fact, one of the quickest methods for injecting life into any economy is by means of direct benefits to those at the bottom of the economic ladder. For some reason most of us don't understand or give much thought to this economic reality.
Texas is not too proficient at claiming the benefits from the federal government that should be coming back to us. I say "back," because the benefits are funded by taxes we've already paid. When our state fails to enroll, certify and qualify eligible persons for the benefits for which they qualify, the result is a significant capital lost to our state's economy.
And, it is clear that our record of recovering those benefits is not good.
Here's the sad news about Texas and unclaimed federal dollars across a broad array of public benefits annually:
SNAP (food stamps) $2.4 billion unclaimed
Energy assistance $568.7 million unclaimed
Childrens' Health insurance $1.2 billion unclaimed
Children's Medicaid $866.2 million unclaimed
Adult Medicaid (aged & disabled) $523.6 million
Medicare Part D Low-Income RX $236 million
Pell Grants for college tuition $349.3 million
For a grand total, conservatively estimated at $6.1 billion annually!
We fail to enroll all of the eligible participants and we loose the funding for Texas. As a result, tax dollars that I pay leave Texas and benefit other states. During tough economic times for our state, this loss is completely unacceptable.
In addition, each of these funds, once claimed and spent, possess and exhibit a "multiplier effect" in the economy. In other words, these funds and their impact on the economy multiply as they circulate and are spent and respent through various sectors of our economy.
Here's the multiplier factor for several of these funds designed to assist the poorest and weakest among us:
SNAP (food stamps) spent in retail grocery stores has a multiplier effect of 1.95 per dollar spent.
CHIP's multiplier effect is 3.17 per dollar spent.
Adult Medicaid--3.17 per dollar.
Energy assistance--2.25 per dollar.
Pell Grants--3.15 per dollar.
Medicare RX--2.67 per dollar.
The overall impact of these public benefits beyond the aid to poor families themselves includes a stimulus to the economy of the state in real dollars and in new jobs. When we fail to draw down these benefits, we fail our own economy and we act in opposition to our own interests as tax payers.
We can do better. We should start by simply understanding the reality behind the numbers.