As a result of his research efforts in recent months, Taylor Rhodes – a College of Coastal Georgia economics professor – discovered some distressing long-term issues impacting Glynn, McIntosh and Brantley counties.
In an article published in The Brunswick News weekend edition, Rhodes cited his surprise in learning that the counties have seen substantial growth in food stamp recipients since 2007 – significantly more than the state and nation overall.
Food stamps – now known as the SNAP program – have increased in participation by 15 percent over the past eight years in Glynn and McIntosh counties and by 19 percent in Brantley. Rhodes concluded that households before 2007 already had median incomes below the state and nation. After the recession, that differential continued to grow, even as the economy improved.
Rhodes' findings come at a time when the State of Georgia continues to move toward continued cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. About a month ago, State Rep. David Clark, R-Buford, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wants to see federal SNAP benefits for able-bodied adults dramatically reduced – based on his concern about extensive welfare fraud. The legislation does include a job-training component. However, opponents are worried that such an effort could include those with physical and cognitive issues.
Cobb, Gwinnett and Hall counties introduced pilot programs recently. Clark wants to see the effort extend throughout the state.
Still, "This is going to make people step up and look for a job," Clark said.
Rhodes isn't so sure that SNAP motivates people not to work. He believes that participation rates "are more influenced by household income measures and labor market performance measures, like the unemployment rate."
The economics professor acknowledges that solutions will be a challenge. Rhodes would like to see more local policies that could result in improved income levels and more full-time employment. That could create an environment where more area workers would be highly-trained and better compensated.
Fortuitously, Rhodes' approach isn't living in a vacuum. The Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority has announced it is working with 18 business prospects. If some of those companies choose to come to Glynn County, that could move forward to what Rhodes calls a domino effect to reduce the SNAP participation rate.
In the end, nobody wants SNAP to grow and many would like to see it scrapped. Let's make that happen because no one needs the benefits any longer – the key to that is clearly through full employment and livable wages.