Woonsocket’s Government-Dependent Existence
In a 3,500-word piece, the Washington Post’s Elia Salow explains how the Rhode Island town of Woonsocket experiences a “monthly boom-and-bust cycle” thanks to a growing dependency on food stamps. One-third of the town’s population – 13,752 – receive food stamps:
The economy of Woonsocket was about to stir to life. Delivery trucks were moving down river roads, and stores were extending their hours. The bus company was warning riders to anticipate “heavy traffic.” A community bank, soon to experience a surge in deposits, was rolling a message across its electronic marquee on the night of Feb. 28: “Happy shopping! Enjoy the 1st.”
In the heart of downtown, Miguel Pichardo, 53, watched three trucks jockey for position at the loading dock of his family-run International Meat Market. For most of the month, his business operated as a humble milk-and-eggs corner store, but now 3,000 pounds of product were scheduled for delivery in the next few hours. He wiped the front counter and smoothed the edges of a sign posted near his register. “Yes! We take Food Stamps, SNAP, EBT!”
“Today, we fill the store up with everything,” he said. “Tomorrow, we sell it all.”
At precisely one second after midnight, on March 1, Woonsocket would experience its monthly financial windfall — nearly $2 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Federal money would be electronically transferred to the broke residents of a nearly bankrupt town, where it would flow first into grocery stores and then on to food companies, employees and banks, beginning the monthly cycle that has helped Woonsocket survive.
It is a commentary on both the state of the American economy and the level of dependency caused by the government’s growing entitlement regime. The article continues:
Pichardo catered his store to the unique shopping rhythms of Rhode Island, where so much about the food industry revolved around the 1st.
Every store had a gimmick for the 1st, and Pichardo’s was the meat packs, which accounted for most of his sales. The idea was to sell merchandise in bulk when customers were hungry and most likely to splurge, hours after the government had deposited an average benefit payment of $265 onto their EBT cards. The nearby Shaw’s Market had started a dollar aisle, and the dollar store had 50-cent specials. Wal-Mart stayed open 24 hours, and customers sometimes waited out the final minutes of the month with full carts near the registers, counting down to midnight.
Grocery store chains had started discount spinoffs. Farmers markets had incentivized SNAP shopping by rewarding customers with $2 extra for every $5 of government money spent.
Restaurants, long forbidden from accepting SNAP, had begun a major lobbying campaign in Washington, and now a handful of Subways in Rhode Island were accepting the benefit as part of a pilot program.
But SNAP recipients at International Meat Market were allowed to spend their money only on uncooked foods — nothing hot or pre-prepared, no paper products, pet food, alcohol or cigarettes. A line formed at Pichardo’s register, and he lifted one heavy cardboard box of meat after the next.
Woonsocket, RI is known for much more than its dependency on food stamps (also known as SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). In November, we sounded the alarm that the Senate-passed farm bill would dramatically expand the definition of “rural”:
Woonsocket, the sixth largest city in Rhode Island, also appears to gain rural status. The city of nearly 44,000 brags about its “modern Multi-million dollar wastewater and water treatment facilities” that are “currently operating substantially below capacity.”
These two issues – food stamps and rural water development – may not seem related, but they are. Not only are they part of the so-called farm bill, but both speak to the issue of government dependency. As Heritage Action’s Drew White explained:
Expanding eligibility for any federal program, including rural water development grants, creates dependents. In this case, the dependents are towns that are then pitted against one another to justify their own existence. Should the provisions in the Senate farm bill become law, ”rural” America would never look the same again.
The political Left – and that includes President Obama – believe your livelihood and success are defined by the government. They believe that relying on government, being dependent upon government, is the key to upward mobility; or at the very least, stability. That has never been true and never will be. Sadly, the ones who bought into the Left’s hype are the ones now suffering the most.