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Oil executives to testify on Capitol Hill about high gas prices

Lawmakers are accusing oil companies of price gouging after the price of oil came down but gasoline prices didn’t follow suit. The price of crude spiked to around $140 per barrel after sancitons were imposed on Russia for invading Ukraine but have since come down closer to $100. Gasoline prices, which peaked in early March at $4.33 per gallon average in the US, have receded but remain elevated at $4.16 on average on Wednesday.

In the meantime, Exxon said it could register its highest quarterly profits in seven years on Monday of 9.3 billion dollars.

Who benefits from contributory programs?

There are a wide range of entitlement programs on offer from the federal government, designed to provide financial support to citizens.

Combined, the programs comprise the social safety net, a vast blanket of initiatives designed to insulate Americans from financial hardships and resultant consequences. Financial expert Forbes reports that the ‘big three’ programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, account for around 48% of the entire annual federal budget.

Entitlement programs can be split into two groups based on their funding models: contributory and non-contributory. The former requires individuals to pay into the program to be eligible to receive the benefits at a later date; while the latter is available to all eligible Americans, without requiring prior payment.

What are contributory entitlement programs?

Contributory entitlement programs include Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance; benefits programs that require the recipient to have contributed to in the form of payroll taxes. All Americans in work will participate in the programs, and so will be eligible to receive the benefits latter down the line.

Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance typically provide support for Americans who are no longer in work, either due to their age, a disability or a loss of employment, but who had previously been.

In contrast non-contributory programs, sometimes referred to as ‘welfare’, do not require recipients to have previously paid in. Regardless of their work history, Americans and certain legal aliens are able to claim support from the government.

These programs include refundable tax credits (Earned Income Tax Credit), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Housing Assistance, Supplemental Security Income and Pell Grant for students.

How much do contributory programs cost every year?

Although they require recipients to have contributed financially, this does not mean that contributory programs do not come with a financial burden for the government. In fact, some of them rank amongst the most expensive forms of federal expenditure.

In 2020 Social Security cost the government $1.1 trillion, making it the largest form of federal spending and responsible for 16.7% of the entire budget. Defence spending was a close second costing $1 trillion.

Medicare cost around $776 billion in 2020, while unemployment insurance was $475 billion. In short, although contributory programs do require recipients to have paid into them to be eligible for the support, they still receive a huge amount of funding from the federal government.

White House fixes ACA “family glitch”

President Barack Obama joined President Joe Biden at the White House on Tuesday, his first visit since leaving office in 2017, for Biden’s announcement to improve The Affordable Care Act.

The Biden administration is taking steps to improve Obama’s signature legislative achievement and fix the ACA “family glitch.” The rule blocks millions of people who receive health care through a family member’s work policy from qualifying for assistance with coverage.

How and where can I apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, is a federal programme to help low-income families and individuals to purchase food using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards in authorized stores.

Millions of Americans are enrolled in the programme, a number bolstered by the covid-19 pandemic that wrought destruction on many Americans’ livelihoods. For many the SNAP benefits provide an essential help in a time of crisis. With inflation set to increase further, according to central banks. At the back end of last year, the Federal Reserve had described the high inflation as transitory, but the war in Ukraine and its fallout could entrench inflation in economies around the world.

Putting that aside, applying for SNAP benefits is not so simple for a year like 2022. There is no central website for applications, and the path to the benefits is found by using your trusty telephone.

How you can apply

The SNAP program is administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service program, but each state has its own application form. It is advised not to call the USDA or the US Health and Human Services headquarters, as only states handle applications and determine eligibility.

Those who are eligible and want to apply for the SNAP program will need to contact their local SNAP office. The USDA provides a useful national map where applicants can find their state’s local office webpage or phone number, most are toll-free, to sign up and get and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.

Contact information for local offices can also be found in the telephone book in the state or local government pages. Applicants should look under “Food Stamps,” “Social Services,” “Human Services,” “Public Assistance,” or some other similar title.

More information can be found on the USAgov website, which has links for further food insecurity help.

Who is eligible and how much could you receive?

Eligibility for SNAP payments is based on three criteria. Claimants must have their maximum gross monthly income at or under 130% of the federal poverty level, which can be found on these Federal Poverty Guidelines Charts. To receive SNAP payments most claimants may not exceed $2,250 in countable resources, or money stored in bank accounts. Claimants must also be available to work.

According to USDA data as of January 7, 2022, SNAP paid on average $243.42 per person and $460.64 per household. For families of four people living in the 48 contiguous US states, including the District of Columbia, the maximum allocation for the year will be $835. For the other states and US territories, information can be found here.