TRAVERSE CITY — We all know that black Friday occurs right after Thanksgiving, rolls into cyber Monday and the shopping frenzy continues right up until Christmas.
But for many local retailers, black Friday occurred on Halloween this year when the $5 billion “safety net” provided by the 2009 stimulus package to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamp program, known as SNAP, expired. For the one in seven American families who depend on SNAP, the loss of $36 dollars a month in benefits is worrisome.
To the majority of us, $36 a month may not seem like a lot of money, but for those folks who work at minimum wage jobs and live paycheck to paycheck, it makes the difference between feeding their kids and being able to fill the tank with gas to get to work.
Regionally, this means that more than 18,000 of our neighbors, many of them children, will have $2 million less in benefits to spend at Family Fare, Tom’s, Meijer, Wal-Mart, Save-a-Lot and many other retailers in the area.
Many think the SNAP program has grown too big and too easy for people to receive benefits. They say all we have to do is look at the fact that in 2012 the government spent $80 billion on SNAP, which is more than twice the level of spending before the Great Recession. Starting in 2007, millions of Americans lost their jobs and needed help to survive, hence the additional dollars to the SNAP program.
A lot of those who lost their jobs due to the recession have found work as the economy slowly recovers, but at jobs paying such low wages that it is impossible to feed their family without help. No matter what the spin-doctors advertise on TV, the facts are that Wal-Mart, where 18 to 20 percent of all SNAP dollars are spent, is the largest employer in the country who pays such low wages that thousands of their employees rely on government assistance to survive. But Wal-Mart isn’t alone in receiving billions in corporate welfare handouts.