Hey there, folks! Big news on the horizon that’s got many Americans worried and could shake things up in the 2024 election. We’re talking about a reduction in benefits that’s not just a policy issue but something hitting home for regular folks. And guess what? It might spell trouble for President Biden.
This benefit cut is hitting women, young people, and people of color the hardest, and guess what? Those are the folks who often lean towards the Democratic side. Add that to the ongoing headache of high inflation, and you’ve got a recipe for some serious election-year drama.
One big problem is the end of the timeout on student loan payments. Millions of borrowers who enjoyed a 3½-year break are now back in the repayment game. At the same time, a $24 billion emergency fund for daycares across the country has dried up, leaving parents worried about rising costs and fewer daycare options.
But wait, there’s more! Restrictions on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a crucial food assistance program for low-income Americans, are kicking in. Hundreds of thousands of folks are at risk of losing their SNAP benefits, adding more stress to the situation.
Now, anti-hunger advocates are waving red flags about the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). They’re saying without an extra $1 billion from Congress, eligible mothers and babies might get turned away.
The Biden team has been pushing for more funding for the usual safety net programs and trying to extend some of the emergency social programs we got during the COVID-19 mess. But, surprise surprise, not everyone in Congress is on board. Republicans and even some Democrats are saying these programs are too pricey and unnecessary now that the pandemic is calming down.
This back-and-forth has led to a shrinking safety net, undoing the expansion we saw between 2020 and 2022. Census Bureau data shows the U.S. poverty rate climbing to 12.4 percent in 2022 from 7.8 percent in 2021 – and that’s even before the latest round of pandemic help ran out.
Economists are saying the expansions we had were a lifeline for many American families, and rolling them back is causing more hardship. But, Team Biden argues that even though they couldn’t make all the COVID-19 programs permanent, things are still better than they were before the pandemic hit.
The Biden crew has tried to permanently boost SNAP benefits, made exemptions from work requirements for certain groups, and used student loan forgiveness to wipe out a chunk of debt. But here’s the kicker – voters aren’t giving Biden much credit for these moves. A recent poll shows that while economic issues are top of the list for swing state voters, only 19 percent think the economy is in excellent or good shape. And get this – 59 percent trust former President Donald Trump more to handle the economy.
Traditional safety net programs might not be the hot topic during an election year, but you better believe the reduction in benefits and the financial strain are going to leave a mark. Experts say the main fallout from these cuts will be a general feeling that the economy isn’t doing too hot.
Already, we’re seeing effects – SNAP is kicking people off for not meeting work requirements, and the age limit for adults under work requirements has gone up. The end of that $24 billion daycare fund? Brace yourselves for higher childcare costs and maybe even some daycare closures, leaving kids without the care they need.
The White House has pitched a $16 billion extension for the daycare program, but Republicans aren’t sold on tossing more federal money at traditional daycare. There’s talk of a tax package to nudge employers to help with childcare, but skeptics wonder if that’ll really do the trick without more cash.
As around 28 million Americans start paying back their student loans all at once, Biden’s team has tried to ease the pain. They’ve got an “on-ramp” forbearance period where not paying won’t hurt your credit, and there’s the SAVE plan, adjusting payments based on income. But research says lower-income borrowers, those without a bachelor’s degree, and Black borrowers are gearing up for a tough time.
The impact of these benefit cuts will hit Americans in the next few months – bad timing for Biden, who’s hoping for some positive economic trends to back up his “Bidenomics” message. A White House official says, sure, poverty has gone up, but real wages and incomes are higher, especially for those at the bottom. How these conflicting stories play out will shape how folks see the economy come 2024. Stay tuned for a bumpy ride, folks!