Wednesday, February 05, 2003

How much are we saving?

In the New York Times, we read about proposals by Bush to establish "eligibility requirements that would make it more difficult for low-income families to obtain a range of government benefits". One of those government benefits is the National School Lunch Program. From the NYTimes story: (emphasis added)
About half of the 28 million children in the National School Lunch Program receive free meals because they come from low-income families. But John H. Rice, a spokesman for the federal Food and Nutrition Service, said the government had found that the number of students certified for free meals was about 25 percent higher than the number who appeared to be eligible, according to Census Bureau data. The Bush administration wants to require families to produce evidence of their income, like pay stubs or tax returns, to get free school lunches. Now parents report their own income, and a small sample is checked by school officials. When the government tested these tougher requirements in eight school districts last year, there was a 20 percent decline in the number of children approved for free lunches.
In one pilot project, at Oak Park and River Forest High School near Chicago, the number of children approved for free lunches dropped 50 percent. At schools in Morenci, Ariz., the number dropped 36 percent.
So, what's the budget for the National School Lunch Program? To find out, go to the OMB website for the 2004 budget, and take a look at the document (3.2 meg pdf file). Here are the numbers: (from page 266)
Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service
National School Lunch Program
(in millions of dollars)
Fiscal Year200220032004
So, we are talking about $6 billion dollars ($225 per child), of which half goes to low-income families ($3 billion). If 25% of those getting a lunch are ineligible (as the spokesman claims), that means Bush is cracking down to save $800 million dollars.


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