WaPo story on Woonsocket brings debate on SNAP, tax credits

WaPo story on Woonsocket brings debate on SNAP, tax credits

WOONSOCKET – A story in the Washington Post last week about the boom and bust cycle created by monthly disbursements from the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program has shown a light on poverty in Woonsocket and has ignited local political debates on taxes and social policy from the left and right of the aisle.

The piece, written by award-winning reporter Eli Saslow, documents a day in the life of both a Woonsocket family and the owner of a local grocery store as the first of the month approaches, and sales and gimmicks draw in newly-funded consumers with Electronic Benefit Transfer cards. In Woonsocket, 13,752 residents receive the benefit, one-third of the city’s population, injecting an estimated $2 million into the economy each month.

Since the article's release last week, hundreds have commented on the topic in blogs, on radio and social media, and even on national television.

On the website BeforeItsNews.com, blogger Eric Dondero declared Woonsocket "the moocher capital of America." The Conservation blog Heritage Action for America said that the article spoke to how "The political Left – and that includes President Obama – believe your livelihood and success are defined by the government."

On the other side of the political aisle, Nonprofit Quarterly called the article "a stunning piece of social commentary" and declared that "the Woonsocket story tells what nonprofits know all too well: there is widespread poverty and hunger in this country, enveloping whites, blacks, and Hispanics." The progressive website RI Future has posted no less than four articles on the topic, with editor Bob Plain stating "Food stamps, not job creators, are driving growth there. In other words, the private sector has failed Woonsocket."

Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine appeared on Fox News to discuss the piece saying "Nationwide, this is a debate that's going on, and I think if anything this is a positive thing that it keeps the controversy and the discussion of the food stamp program as a whole going on."

Fontaine went on to ruminate "This comes down to a point of whether we're serving a need or whether we're creating a need," a statement with which RI Future blogger and Woonsocket mayoral candidate David Fisher took issue.

"Woonsocket is on the verge of bankruptcy," writes Fisher. "And yet the biggest business in the state, CVS, is located here in Woonsocket. A third of Woonsocket is on food stamps, CVS’s CEO’s salary went up by a third and now he gets $3 million more than the state gives in tax breaks."

The Woonsocket company made headlines last month, threatening to reevaluate long-standing ties to the Ocean State, if a proposal by Governor Lincoln Chafee to half the value of the Jobs Development Act credit were to pass. The credit, created in 1996, is aimed at attracting high paying jobs by allowing a .25 percent rate drop for every 50 positions a company provides that pay at least 250 percent of the state’s minimum wage. The credit was estimated to have saved CVS $15.4 million in 2012.

Read the Washington Post article here: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-16/national/37768635_1_food-s....

See Fontaine's interview at http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2237788771001/