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Letter: Poor American families need better support

To the editor: The Feb. 3 article by Matt Martinez ("South Congregational Church's food pantry has seen an increase of 300 families a week. Here's how you can help") does an excellent job highlighting the difficulties faced by so many of our residents in obtaining adequate and appropriate food.

To quote the Rev. Mike Denton from the article: “The crisis has already started. Now we’re going to see how big it gets.” With changes to government social support — decreases to food stamps, the failure to continue the enhanced Child Tax Credit, the increases in costs for food and rent — we are witness to a perfect storm.

During the past three years, changes to SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — provided folks with at least an extra $95 monthly for food. But at the end of February, these allotments will end in every state. They’ve already ended in 18 states with dramatic increases in visits to food banks. In October, there were more than 42.3 million people across the country participating in SNAP, receiving an average monthly installment of $253.43. At the same time, according to The Agriculture Department’s economic Research Service, a rise in food prices of 4.2 percent to 10.1 percent relative to 2022 is forecast. This creates an untenable and preventable situation.

Researchers at Children’s Health Watch found that the ending of monthly child tax credit payments caused family food insufficiency to increase by 12 percent. Three million children fell back into poverty in 2022 as 19 million children in low-income families lost all or part of the tax credit.

The law as it now exists penalizes those needing it most. The child tax credit and earned income tax credit boost income to pay for basic needs and reduce poverty. They are an effective means to provide for housing and food costs, bringing enormous numbers of children out of poverty. These credits have long had bipartisan support as one of our most effective tools for reducing poverty.

We have the means to alleviate poverty, but we need the political will to do so. Join me in asking Sen. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Richard Neal to continue their support for these changes.

Leslye Heilig, Great Barrington

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