Amy Coney Barrett Could Determine LGBTQ People’s Access to Adoption

A week into Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination hearings for the United States Supreme Court, some distinctly controversial themes have emerged, including her views on abortion — a particularly hot topic for the court given the current president’s promise to overturn Roe v. Wade — and her long-time opposition to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which is one of the first major cases that will be heard before the court this fall. But one impending Supreme Court case going largely unaddressed will have major implications for LGBTQ families and the U.S. foster care and adoption system. If Barrett is confirmed on Monday, she will be seated on the Supreme Court in time to hear it.

This November, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, which will decide whether foster and adoption placement agencies have the right to use their religious beliefs as an excuse not to comply with nondiscrimination protections.

In 2018, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS), the city’s child services department, stopped referring prospective foster and adoptive parents to Catholic Social Services for certification and oversight after a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that the agency was actively discriminating against gay and lesbian couples for religious reasons. When Catholic Social Services refused to change their stance on licensing queer foster parents, the city allowed their foster certification contract to lapse; the subsequent lawsuit, which is now pending before the Supreme Court, claims that the city violated their religious freedoms by ending their contract for this reason.

Barrett has expressed a number of beliefs in her public life that suggest bias against the LGBTQ community. She was a signatory on a letter to the Catholic leadership expressing commitment toward “the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women…and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.” She described the application of Title IX protections to transgender people as a “strain,” and has openly opposed marriage equality. She was also faculty for the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which is run by a law firm whose executive director recently argued for reestablishing criminal penalties for consensual queer sex.

Fulton is not the only way in which LGBTQ rights within the foster system have been questioned this year. An executive order issued by President Trump in late June, titled “Strengthening the Child Welfare System for America’s Children,” does not directly address the upcoming Supreme Court case, but it does seek to solidify the rights of faith-based organizations to work in the child services field, and to clearly solidify their First Amendment rights to engage in this work — the very argument up for debate with the Supreme Court.

The order states: “This guidance shall also make clear that faith-based organizations are eligible for partnerships under title IV–E of the Act (42 U.S.C. 670 et seq.), on an equal basis, consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution.” It is this same brand of messaging that has surfaced repeatedly in Barrett’s opinions related to LGBTQ rights, and on the rights of the Catholic Church to exact its views on society at large.

“It’s really critical and important to note…the language used,” said Alexandra Citrin, senior associate at the Center for the Study of Social Policy. “The language in the Executive Order might appear harmless, but what we’ve seen from this Administration is consistent undermining of certain communities including those who are LGBTQ+, Black, immigrant, etc. and prioritizing who they believe should be foster and adoptive parents. We are likely going to see guidance that emphasizes partnerships for faith-based organizations — including those that use federal dollars to discriminate.”

That creates anxiety for LGBTQ families, who have only recently gained the right to foster and adopt. It was not until 1997 that the first state in the country, New Jersey, officially allowed same-sex couples to adopt statewide. Florida was the last state to overturn its anti-gay adoption policies in 2010.

The concerns that LGBT adults have about whether or not they’re going to be discriminated against have not gone away

“The concerns that LGBT adults have about whether or not they’re going to be discriminated against have not gone away,” said Stephanie Haynes, executive director of Philadelphia Family Pride, which is a co-appellee in the Catholic Social Services case. “You can imagine families in same-sex couples would decide not to become foster parents at all because of the risk of being turned away, not only because they do not want to subject themselves to that but also for families with kids already, they would involve their kids in discussions about the possibility of having foster kids in the home, and want to protect their kids from that possible discrimination from the foster care process.”

LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents are not the only queer group who face discrimination in the foster system, though they have received the most attention and study in the field. LGBTQ youth, for example, remain overrepresented in the child welfare system, and are at heightened risk for homelessness. And one study of low-income Black mothers found that those who identified as lesbian or bisexual were 4.19 times more likely to lose custody of their children than heterosexual Black women, a population already subject to racial disproportionality within the system.

Nancy Polikoff, a professor of Law Emerita at American University Washington College of Law, said that discrimination “can be obvious, as in not recognizing who the child’s family members are, but it can also be more subtle.” She cited a case in Kansas in which a lesbian mother was told by her case worker, who was employed by the faith-based agency St. Francis Community Services, that she needed to be “fixed” so that she would not spread her queerness to her child. Ultimately, her parental rights were terminated. While her orientation was not cited as the reason that her children were removed from her home, interactions between her and the case worker indicate that it likely played a role.

Similar concerns exist for transgender children. “We have had a number of cases where parents who have, in particular, trans children end up having their child removed because they are supporting their children’s gender identity,” said Cathy Sakimura, family law director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case. “We recently had a case where a very low income mother lost all of her children; they were all removed because one of her children was gender non-conforming…There really wasn’t anything else other than some vague allegation about the home being dirty, and all of the testimony — everything that was presented — was all about the child and whether the child was given feminine clothing.”

“There are great faith-based organizations that partner with child welfare agencies and do it well; the problem is there are some faith-based organizations that discriminate…against what foster parents they will license, which can limit who can be licensed – for example, if there is only one licensing agency in the community, an aunt might not be able to be licensed to care for their niece if the agency doesn’t agree with her identity. And, it also raises into question how these are supporting the diverse identities of youth in foster care,” said Citrin.

If Barrett’s confirmation is successful, her placement could tip the Supreme Court in the direction of anti-LGBTQ policymaking. The ruling on Fulton v. City of Philadelphia will undoubtedly have dire impacts on children caught up in the foster system, but a broad enough decision could also open the doors for discrimination in any social service setting that contracts with agencies that cite their religion as an excuse to discriminate, including homeless shelters and food banks. It is impossible to predict how Barrett will vote on the case; however, several of her past actions showcase clear bias.

The case is currently pending before the Supreme Court, and arguments are set to begin just after Election Day. In the meantime, Catholic Social Services is still contracted with Philadelphia DHS to conduct case management for system-involved families of origin.





New Jersey, Birthplace of Welfare Family Caps, Has Finally Repealed Them

Four years before President Bill Clinton signed legislation that he promised would “end welfare as we know it,” New Jersey started the process on its own. In 1992 it became the first state in the country to cut off additional cash welfare benefits for a family when they had a new child. Before the policy, a family would get an extra cash allotment to cover the needs of their new child. Afterward, if someone enrolled in the program had an additional child, they would receive no extra money.

It was explicitly enacted in an attempt to keep poor women, and particularly poor Black women, from having more children. “What this does is give welfare recipients a choice,” Wayne R. Bryant, the former New Jersey Democratic Assembly majority leader who came up with the policy, said in 1992. “They either can have additional children and work to pay the added costs, or they can decide not to have any more children.” He later bragged that the policy had led to an “astounding” drop in the birthrate among women on welfare. In advocating for the family cap, he described “123 blocks where there are no legitimate males” in his city of Camden, by which he meant “men who can rightfully take their place in that community,” thanks to the fact that welfare has taught “all the wrong values.” The family cap, meanwhile, “reinforced the ideas of self-responsibility and investment in the future.”

It’s a “terribly racist and classist and misogynistic policy,” said Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate at the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “It’s a poor baby penalty.”

But the policy quickly spread nationally after New Jersey enacted it. Republicans even included a pledge to “discourage illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by…denying increased [benefits] for additional children while on welfare” in their 1994 Contract for America, the precursor for welfare reform. The language never made it into the final version, but 22 states took the initiative to create family caps anyway.

As of September 30, New Jersey is no longer one of them.

“It’s huge. [New Jersey] is the mothership of the family cap rule,” Bartholow said. “It’s a beautiful day when the place that started it all can…reconcile what it’s done.” She noted that her state of California, which got rid of its cap in 2016, had originally followed New Jersey’s lead in creating one in the first place. “You have to wonder, what if [New Jersey] had never done it?” she said. “Would we have had it, would other states have had it?”

Despite Bryant’s early data, research in the decades since shows welfare family caps don’t work. There is no evidence that family caps influence how many children poor families have. It’s not even true that poor families receiving government benefits have huge families. In 1990, only 10 percent of households receiving cash benefits had more than three children. Today, they have an average of 1.8 children, the same as the average for the country as a whole. “The idea behind the law has been really debunked,” said Renee Koubiadis, executive director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey.

What family caps actually do is deprive families of the extra cash they need to cover expenses that aren’t covered by other programs, such as diapers, baby wipes, and car seats. This just increases their poverty. Koubiadis has heard stories, she said, of parents who only had one extra diaper for their baby for an entire day, and others who couldn’t go to work because they couldn’t afford the number of diapers required to send their children to daycare. Now a family of three that had a child excluded from extra benefits thanks to the cap stands to see an extra $134 a month, according to calculations by Brittany L. Holom, senior policy analyst at New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP).

The campaign to repeal the state’s cap launched in 2016 with a report from NJPP that found that more than 20,000 children had been denied assistance since the cap was enacted in 1992. “Those are 20,000 children who, in the eyes of the program, essentially didn’t exist,” Holom noted. Even in 2018, the cap lowered benefits for 1,235 families. It also disproportionately impacts families of color: About 80 percent of the state’s children on welfare are Black and Hispanic.

The 2016 analysis “really helped highlight those issues for legislators who hadn’t thought about this law…since it was enacted in 1992,” Koubiadis said.

The report was released just months before California repealed its family cap, and coincided with other state campaigns, such as in Massachusetts. As advocates in New Jersey fought to repeal their family cap, the movement gained support from religious groups who were concerned about the impact the policy has on children. Ron Haskins, a prominent Republican architect of welfare reform, has since said he would be “hesitant” to support a family cap today because it “creates hardships for families.”

But even with a growing movement, New Jersey’s repeal hit roadblock after roadblock. Legislation sailed through the state legislature, but Republican Governor Chris Christie vetoed it twice.

Then the state elected Democratic Governor Phil Murphy in 2018. In New Jersey’s last two budgets, the welfare cap was effectively eradicated when lawmakers included extra money to pay families the missing benefits for their additional children. Still, the cap itself remained on the books, meaning that lawmakers would have had to keep including that money each year to keep it from denying families money.

It’s a beautiful day when the place that started it all can reconcile what it’s done.

The coronavirus crisis, however, focused attention on the need to get rid of the cap once and for all. “There was a focus on other issues in the last couple of years, up until the pandemic,” Koubiadis said. But “with the exacerbation of these inequities, and certainly racial inequalities, legislators as a whole recognized that this was the moment to repeal this.” With the law no longer on the books, the extra assistance for poor families will be automatically included in each year’s budget.

“The tide certainly has been turning, especially in the last five to ten years,” Koubiadis said. “Other states certainly should take a look at repealing this law as well.” Holom noted this is particularly true for other nearby states, such as Connecticut, that still have a cap now that New Jersey and Massachusetts have done away with theirs.

The fact that “it has been undone in the place where it began will spread across the country and inspire the remaining states,” Bartholow said, “to finally end their use of this very flawed intervention.” She’s heard from people who are interested in doing the same in Tennessee and Virginia.

Perhaps, she suggested, Congress could even consider legislating it out of existence, barring states from having this policy at all. Congress might even go so far as to reconsider the other parts of the current welfare program that similarly punish poor people who need assistance, such as time limits that kick them off after a certain number of years, work requirements that deny benefits unless someone completes frequent paperwork proving they are either working or looking for a job, and pursuing children’s parents for child support money to pay back the benefits.

“These are really disgusting ways to think about a safety net,” Bartholow said. “I hope it can also inspire people to think about what else we have [done] wrong.”


First Person

Getting By Without a Car Was Always Hard. Now It’s a Public Health Risk.

When I was ten, I ended up in the local emergency room. I still remember sitting in the waiting room, shaken and in pain, waiting for answers that had evaded the ER doctors and my pediatrician. My mom, in her oversized cat sweater, hugged me when I asked her if I would feel better. I wanted to go home with her, dance to a vinyl record, and make a blanket fort in the living room like we always did when I was sick. Instead, I would need to go to another hospital to see a specialist who focused on autistic kids and other children with developmental disabilities.

My mom couldn’t drive due to her visual impairment, so I only had three transportation options: We could pay more than $100 for an hour-long taxi ride to the hospital, I could wait in the ER for a day or two until they could get a hospital shuttle van, or I could take an ambulance. I grew up in the projects, so my understanding of ambulances was that they came when something really bad happened — when someone was stabbed in a fight, when my neighbor across the street was injured by her abusive husband, when an elderly neighbor had a heart attack, when someone called 9-1-1 on a mentally ill person for shouting at birds. I didn’t want to ride in one, especially not alone.

We eventually decided on the ambulance, even though the idea terrified me, because I was also afraid of staying in the ER overnight or being in the hospital any longer than necessary. The EMTs didn’t use the siren and I pretended I was just in the back of my Poppy’s old truck, which he used to let me ride in if we were only going to the Melrose public pool down the street.

This wasn’t the first time that I had to make a difficult decision because we didn’t have a family car, nor was it the last. I coordinated my SAT testing schedule with friends so that I could drive with them to the test site, and if I wanted to participate in after-school activities I had to pick the ones that ended before the last round of buses left. I walked a mile and a half to pick up new books from the library and drop off the ones I had finished. I made sure every doctor and therapist I went to was within walking distance or on a public transportation route.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, living without a car isn’t just an inconvenience. It’s a public health risk. The CDC is recommending that people drive alone as much as possible, but more than 10.5 million households in this country don’t have a personal vehicle. Many people who don’t have cars are already part of a marginalized group: They’re poor (households with an annual income of less than $25,000 are nearly nine times as likely to have no personal vehicles), disabled (only 65 percent of disabled people drive compared to 88 percent of non-disabled people), or people of color (14 percent of POC households don’t have a vehicle compared to 6 per cent of white households and immigrants across races are even less likely to have a car). Car access is also limited in very urban or very rural areas (54 percent of households in New York City don’t own a car, and more than 1 million people in rural areas don’t have cars).

Many people who don’t have cars are already part of a marginalized group

The transportation options that exist for people without cars were already imperfect — they’re time consuming, don’t cover many areas, and can be inaccessible and unsafe for disabled people and people of color — but they’re even more challenging in a pandemic. Taking public transportation is a risk right now, as is taking a cab or a ride share service like Uber or Lyft (if that’s even an option, since it’s become more difficult to find a ride). At the same time, budgets for public transit across the country have been cut and service has been reduced, making it increasingly risky and difficult for those who do need these services to use them safely and effectively. This combination directly impacts people who don’t have cars, especially people at a high risk of complications from COVID-19 — disabled people and others with underlying and chronic health conditions.

While the pandemic has made many businesses and medical facilities nimble and creative, many have decided to be ‘innovative’ by going drive-through only. Drive-through food, movies, concerts, religious confessionals, haunted houses, even drive-through COVID-19 testing. They all provide convenient opportunities for people who own their own vehicles who want to get out of their homes, but they widen the inequality gap for those who don’t have cars.

Drive-through services are often very literal. One night in my early twenties, I was staying with friends and we found ourselves hungry at 10 p.m. It was close to the end of our biweekly paychecks, and like most broke people, they’d run out of food in the kitchen. The only places open were drive throughs, so we tried to convince the staff at a drive thru to let us order and pay from the window even though we didn’t have a car. Not having a car was a dealbreaker. They said they legally couldn’t serve us or they’d lose their jobs. (While there doesn’t seem to be a specific law addressing this in Massachusetts, in 2016 in Louisiana a blind man sued McDonald’s for not providing him drive-through service when he walked up to the window.) We’d all worked service jobs, so we understood, but we also went to bed hungry.

I’ve had dozens of moments like that throughout my life: Turning down an internship in college because I had no way to get myself there, choosing not to go to the doctor’s because I felt too sick to walk but not sick enough to call an ambulance, asking a friend to help me print out a school assignment because I wouldn’t have enough time to walk to the library to print it myself, calling my best friend to come pick me up when I threw up in the bathroom at work because I had no other way to get home, not applying to jobs because they weren’t on public transit routes and were too far to walk to.

I can’t help but wonder what my mom and I would do if this pandemic happened during my childhood. We’d be facing the same choices millions of Americans have to make now: Do I take an Uber to get to the COVID-19 testing center? Should I cancel my follow-up appointment if I have to get on a bus to get there? Is it safer to take a cab with a stranger or ask for a ride from my neighbor who’s an essential worker? How much will it cost if I call an ambulance to get to the hospital downtown because I’m nervous about taking the train?

No one should have to live this way, especially during a global pandemic.



12 Million People Still Haven’t Received Unemployment Benefits

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released new results from its Household Pulse survey, which tracks the social and economic impacts of the coronavirus crisis. This is the first release since the end of July, so it is the first snapshot we have of how Americans are faring during the pandemic since the $600 boost to unemployment was allowed to expire.

The results show the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on family economic situations across the country, and the extent to which so many people have been left without the help they need.

Nearly half of American adults lost household income, and millions still haven’t gotten benefits

Since the start of economic shutdowns in March, about 113 million adults (46 percent of the population) experienced a loss of employment income for themselves or a member of their household. That fell harder on lower income households: More than half (52 percent) of households making under $35,000 lost employment income, as opposed to 31 percent of households making more than $200,000. And, just as systemic racism in the health care system means that people of color are disproportionately likely to contract and face complications from COVID-19, people of color are also more likely to bear the economic brunt of the pandemic. More than half of people who described themselves as Black, Hispanic or Latino, or two or more races or other races lost income, and 47 percent of Asian adults lost income. White adults were less likely to lose income — only 41 percent did.

About 50 million adults have applied for unemployment benefits in less than six months, compared to about 37 million in 18 months during the Great Recession. What’s worse, almost 12 million people who applied for benefits have not received any. Poorer homes that were already living paycheck-to-paycheck were least likely to receive support: One third of households with incomes under $25,000 that applied for unemployment insurance haven’t received benefits. And, once again, people of color were less likely to receive the unemployment benefits they applied for: 30 percent of Black adults and 31 percent of adults of two or more races or other races who filed for unemployment insurance haven’t gotten their benefits. In comparison, 24 percent of Hispanic or Latino adults, 22 percent of white adults, and 20 percent of Asian adults also haven’t received any unemployment benefits.

Teleworking has been correlated with good health and high wealth

In addition to the mass layoffs and furloughs, the increase in telework has been the other major shift in the employment landscape: About 86 million adults now live in a home where at least one person shifted from in-person to telework.

There was a strong correlation between reports of good to excellent health and having shifted to working from home, with 47 percent of those in excellent health saying someone in their household made the switch to telework. In contrast, only 18 percent of people reporting poor health said that members of their household were able to make that same change.

This shift to telework has also proven beneficial primarily for those with higher incomes. Just 14 percent of homes making under $35,000 per year had an adult who was able to move at least partially to telework, compared to 72 percent for households bringing in more than $200,000.

Without additional support, more than half of the country is struggling to pay household expenses

All of this economic disruption, and the government’s inability to reach everyone with the aid they need, has left a lot people struggling to pay for everyday things. More than half of American adults — 134 million, or 56 percent of the population— said they had at least a little difficulty paying for usual household expenses in the last week. Homes with children were also much more likely to report spending difficulty: 64 percent compared to 50 percent of those without kids. Households that lost income were twice as likely to have used food stamps (SNAP) and more than three times as likely to have borrowed money from friends or family to cover usual spending needs in the last week.

All of this data points to one thing: People need help. Previous household pulse surveys, when Americans still had access to the $600 boost to unemployment benefits, already showed hardship increased significantly (inability to pay rent and food insecurity, particularly among families with children, were reaching dangerous proportions).

Now that the $600 boost has expired, there is no place in the country where a typical family can live on unemployment insurance alone. Tens of millions of people across the nation still need help getting through the coronavirus crisis. Congress must, at the very least, extend the $600 boost to unemployment insurance to quickly get substantial help to those who need it most in this crisis, and ensure that people are getting the benefits for which they’re eligible.




Why Are Only 4 Percent of SNAP Households Buying Groceries Online?

Joanne is a 68-year-old resident of Eugene, Oregon, who has worked as a fundraiser and scientist. Like almost 5 million American seniors, she counts on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) to help pay the grocery bill. Historically, the program required people to shop in-store, but with COVID-19 that has changed with a lightning speed rollout of online grocery shopping nearly nationwide. Joanne says the new option features its share of complications despite its good intentions. That may be one reason why many eligible SNAP recipients are avoiding it.

SNAP provides a monthly supplement to low- and no-income residents to purchase groceries. In 2018, the average SNAP recipient received about $127 per month in benefits. The endeavor, operated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is the largest federal nutrition program in the United States. Last year, SNAP fed 38 million Americans, the vast majority of whom are children, the elderly, and disabled adults.

USDA launched the online SNAP pilot in April 2019 in New York  — a state with more than 2.6 million residents enrolled in the federal nutrition safety net program — with three retailers: Amazon, Walmart, and ShopRite. Although rollout to other states wasn’t planned to begin until after the two-year test pilot, by March 2020, administrators faced pressure to fast-track implementation nationwide to allow SNAP recipients a safer, socially distanced way of shopping during the pandemic.

With its recent expansion to 44 states (including the District of Columbia), USDA says online SNAP is now accessible to more than 90 percent of users — or around 34 million people — who rely on the social safety net program each year. Another three states were approved to participate and are in the process of implementing the program for their eligible populations.

According to the federal agency, since online SNAP’s widespread implementation due to COVID-19, usership has increased. A spokesperson from USDA noted via written request that in March 2020, close to 35,000 SNAP households shopped online. By June, more than 800,000 households were participating. While that is a dramatic increase, it is only 4 percent of the households receiving SNAP.

Despite recognition of the program’s importance in the face of the pandemic, users, food security advocates, and legislators have raised flags. Experts like Ed Bolen, senior policy analyst at the Washington D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that though extensive research on the impact of online SNAP is yet to be conducted, anecdotally his organization has heard from a number of users about issues with learning about, accessing, and fully utilizing the online purchasing and delivery resource. Additionally, users must navigate order minimums and delivery fees as the USDA prohibits the use of SNAP funding for these costs.

Bolen points to the lack of information available on the program in communities with high SNAP eligibility as one factor for potentially low participation rates. Generally, when a state is added, a press release follows with pick-up by local media. However, the trickle down to users has been spotty depending on state-level implementation and the communication resources at their disposal.

In Massachusetts, food advocate and SNAP user Diane Sullivan said the state generally does a good job keeping in touch with participants about SNAP and has even implemented new ways of doing so during the pandemic, such as texting. However, with the struggle to keep up with a constant flux of changing policy and a growing participant list, Sullivan added that she didn’t recall receiving a text from the state about the online option when it became available in late May.

Amazon and Walmart are the only online shopping option in 38 of 44 states

In addition to finding out about online shopping, sometimes it’s hard to find the foods users want. Joanne referenced the hour and a half she recently spent compiling a cart of only 12 items eligible for the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards issued to participants. “Looking at Amazon,” Joanne said about one of the program’s two approved retailers in her state, “if you put ‘EBT’ in their search line, you have to go down seven rows before you find something that I consider whole food. Generally, what I find is that most of the things on here are processed food, which are not useful to me.”

Joanne said she prefers to spend her SNAP dollars — which amount to the minimum monthly benefit of $16 per month — in person at stores and farmers’ markets that not only sell whole foods more to her liking, but where she can benefit from EBT matching programs that double her benefits when they are spent at qualifying markets.

Amazon and Walmart currently dominate online SNAP as the only shopping option in 38 of the 44 states approved to participate. The CBPP’s Bolen explained that the lack of diversity in retailers may be discouraging uptake. “Having only those options might not mean a lot if you don’t live near a Walmart and you’ve never thought of Amazon as a place to buy your groceries,” he explained. For this reason, in July, U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin of Illinois introduced a bill in the Senate appealing for the expansion of retailers participating in the program.

Additionally, low-income Americans are more likely to lack the technological resources to access the internet. Data from the Pew Research Center shows that 29 percent of adults with household incomes below $30,000 per year do not own a smartphone, 44 percent do not have broadband internet, and 46 percent lack a computer. The Center notes that in nearly all households with incomes over $100,000 per year, these resources are consistently available.

From her lens on the ground, Sullivan said the online option is “on the right track” but it needs amending to ensure challenges facing recipients are addressed with their concerns in mind, not the bottom lines of the billion-dollar corporations currently benefitting from the economic stimulus.

“You have to engage people with lived experience in the process of designing these programs and implementing them,” Sullivan says. “We are on the ground and have information on when these systems work or when they don’t. We need to be brought into conversations around solutions in a more meaningful way.”