Safety Nets Tossed

Two months after food stamps for Queens residents were cut for the first time in 80 years, Congress ended long-term unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans across the country.

Scrooge seems to have found a full-time job in Washington, spoiling the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s with heartless acts that could dent the economic recovery. Just think what he may cook up in time for Valentine’s Day.

A temporary government program to boost food stamp benefits after the recession hit expired Nov. 1, slashing $36 a month from the monthly outlay for a family of four in Queens. A spot check by TimesLedger Newspapers found that $36 could buy food for about 25 meals at a typical supermarket in the borough for less than $1.50 per person.

One enlightened Georgia congressman says children should sweep school cafeteria floors to be eligible for the federal hot lunch program.

In other words, send the kids out to work as their parents lose jobless benefits because they were unable to find a job after collecting for more than 26 weeks.

The five-year program to help the long-term unemployed ended Dec. 28 after it failed to make it through the budget negotiations.

In October the unemployment rate hovered at 7.4 percent in Queens and barely exceeded the national jobless rate of 7.3 percent. The mayor singled out Queens as the economic star of the outerboroughs, which means even grimmer times in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.

With two critical safety nets now eliminated, the rising demand for food is likely to swamp Queens’ food pantries and kitchens, which have been struggling to meet current needs. One in eight children is already undernourished in Queens, according to the Coalition Against Hunger.

The bottom line is that more people in Queens will be pushed below the poverty line and more residents will find themselves homeless unless Congress comes up with a bipartisan agreement to restore the long-term jobless benefits.

Democrats and Republicans say they are willing to negotiate, but talk is cheap when hundreds of thousands of Americans are grappling with hopelessness and economic fear. If lawmakers fail to act, economists have warned job growth will slow and the economic recovery could suffer.

Let’s start off the new year with an agreement to give our less fortunate Americans a temporary leg up and evict Scrooge from Washington.

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