This was submitted as an idea to the Politifest 2012 Idea Tournament. VOSD members will vote on the best ideas and on Sept. 19 we’ll announce six contenders (Not a member? Join now to vote). At Politifest on Sept. 29, each of the six finalists will have five minutes to pitch their idea to a panel. The panel rates the ideas and two finalists advance. The crowd at Politifest will vote on a winner. The winner will receive an “idea-inspired” trophy custom-designed by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye. VOSD CEO Scott Lewis will also write about the winner’s idea.

As VOSD and other reporting have shown, San Diego County has been unmotivated to connect eligible county residents with food stamps and CalWorks support. This is a source of much avoidable deprivation for our poorest families and also a loss for all residents in the form of lower economic activity. Two powerful groups do have an interest in changing that situation: municipal governments and grocers. A modest kitty, funded by participating municipalities (and grocers if I can figure that out) could act as a simple carrot and stick to the county.

The fund (no clever name yet) would match dollar-for-dollar all spending by the county on enrollment programs above their minimum spending requirement. My quick estimate is that $500,000 matched would be enough to boost enrollment to around 80 percent. That would generate about $180 million in net new economic activity and about $920,000 in municipal taxes. Besides helping our neediest, it would be a solid return on investment.

Since matching funds may not be enough to motivate the county, unspent funds would be used to subsidize housing for low-income county residents. The closer to the homes of our county supervisors the better.

I need to do some work on the numbers, but otherwise think the program is best kept as simple as possible.

Jeffrey Davis submitted this idea to the Politifest 2012 Idea Tournament. Join us on Sept. 29!

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