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Local reps step up to take the “Snap” challenge

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Published on: Thursday, January 31, 2013

By Christa Puccio

ROCKVILLE – While Sen. Robert Garagiola plans to propose legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage, some local representatives plan to live on a budget equivalent to food stamps for one week to highlight the struggles encountered by low-income working families face every day.

“Do I think that people can live on minimum wage alone?  Probably not,” said County Council President Nancy Navarro.  “I think it’s important to remember that people tend to want to help each other.  There are a lot of people that have to partner to get there, that’s why we have this issue of shared housing.  You know, there are some challenges out there that we cannot pretend do not exist, but I’m assuming that it’s probably a very difficult thing to do.”

The “SNAP Challenge” is based on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.  The average person reliant on SNAP is allotted roughly $5 of food per day, according to Councilmember Valerie Ervin.  SNAP Challenge participants will try to live on a $5 per day food budget for one whole week – Feb. 4 through Feb. 8.

 “I think it’s always important to have an opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes,” said County Council President Nancy Navarro.  “It is I think sometimes difficult to portray realities that so many people do face in Montgomery County because we are a very wealthy county, but we do have pockets of poverty and I think it is very important to step back and truly understand the challenge that it would be.”

Navarro said she will be buying Ramen noodles and what is going to help her is remembering what she ate in her college days.  “I hope I can do it,” said Navarro.  “I think that’s a part of this exercise is to realize how difficult it is.  But I have started to think about how I’m going to manage that.”

Meanwhile in Annapolis, Garagiola is proposing to increase Maryland’s state minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour by 2015 and index it from there to match inflation rates and the cost of living.  Some Montgomery County residents say that matching minimum wage with the cost of living is common sense and that this legislation should have been passed years ago – Garagiola agreed.

“I do think it’s common sense – absolutely,” said Garagiola.  “It should keep up with inflation, otherwise it loses the value and right now the value is at its lowest point.   I mean gas prices go up, electricity prices go up, rent goes up, but the floor for wages doesn’t go up?  That doesn’t make sense to me and that’s why I’m sponsoring the legislation.”

Garagiola said he is hopeful that it won’t take any longer than this year to get the bill passed.

“Maryland passed a minimum wage increase in 2006 or 2007 and we were ahead of the federal government they were at $6.25 an hour and we were at $7.25 an hour and so the federal government followed us.  I introduced legislation to raise minimum wage again and what I heard then was ‘because of the economy and because of the recession,’ so there was some resistance to it.  So what we’ve done is retooled.  We have faith based organizations, labor based organizations, we have a broad coalition business leaders and so I think this will be the year we get it done.  My hope is that they’re going to get a pay increase come July.  It’s going to start phasing in.  People are going to get a raise come this July – it’ll go up to $8.25 an hour.  The following July it’ll go up to $9 and then it’ll go up to $10.”

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