State Food Assistance (SFA) is a food stamp look-alike program founded by the Washington State legislature and Governor Gary Locke in 1997 to provide continued food assistance to legal, documented immigrants when Congress terminated their eligibility for food stamps. The program has been a tremendous success but is at dire risk.
We need your help TODAY to preserve this important program!
Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000 or email your reps and senator to ask for full funding for the State Food Assistance Program!
Since 1997, Congress has restored federal food stamps for several categories of immigrants (like refugees and asylees). There are three main groups receiving State Food Assistance in Washington:
- Immigrants with green cards who are in their first five years of residence in the US.
- “People Living Under Color of the Law,” a variety of immigration status that allows people to continue to live in the US.
- Citizens of countries with Compacts of Free Association with the US (Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands) who may live and work in the US but are ineligible for most assistance.
More than 10,000 households received SFA in November 2012. Unfortunately, legislators have repeatedly tried to slash SFA benefits that help thousands of children growing up in immigrant families.
Efforts began in late 2010 to eliminate the program completely. The 2011 and 2012 budgets cut the benefits in half, reducing the average benefit per household from $159.05 to just $78.23. This benefit level is just one-third of the resources needed to be “food secure,” according to the US Department of Agriculture.
A coalition of anti-hunger advocates and allies is asking the Legislature to fully fund SFA. The Children’s Alliance, the Faith Action Network, the Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition, OneAmerica, Northwest Harvest, the Washington Food Coalition and others strongly encourage the 2013 Legislature to restore State Food Assistance benefits to 100% of the food stamp benefits received by more than 1 million Washingtonians. The cost of maintaining SFA benefits at 50% in the next biennium is estimated to be $21 million; the cost of restoring benefits to 100% is an additional $21 million. Proposed changes made in the food stamp program at the federal level by Congress could reduce the cost to the state.
Solid Ground has joined 60 community organizations in supporting the SFA. A letter to the legislature signed by all of the organizations states:
For more than 15 years, Washington has strategically leveraged national resources to make sure that food stamps reach families in need. …
But now our food security network isn’t working like it should. During the recession, Washington legislators slashed State Food Assistance benefits for thousands of children growing up in immigrant families, nearly all of whom are children of color. At a time when an estimated one in four Washington children live in food insecure households, the cut to State Food Assistance deepens racial and economic inequality. …
(H)unger is a roadblock to opportunity. Hungry children can’t learn. The ties between hunger, poor health and learning are well understood. If we continue to send children to school without the fuel they need for academic success, we continue to let the opportunity gap swallow up our future.
As the legislative Special Session gets underway in Olympia today, our representatives and senators need to hear that we support the full funding for the State Food Assistance program. Please call the legislative hotline today at 1.800.562.6000 to leave a message, or email your legislators.