Posts Tagged: food stamps

The food stamp backlash

Reading James Bovard’s screed on food stamps as a “magnet for abuses and absurdities” in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, I immediately thought, “Wow, he’s targeting food stamps the way conservatives in the 80s and 90s attacked welfare.” By the end of the piece Bovard makes it explicit: “Decades after liberals derided Ronald Reagan’s reference to a Cadillac-driving ‘welfare queen,’” Bovard writes,”Obama administration policies could easily permit Trust Fund Babies driving Rolls Royces to get free food courtesy of Uncle Sam.” Is there a valid argument behind this overheated rhetoric?

Not really. (more…)

Scott Walker turned down on privatization

The Wisconsin state legislature did away with two major attempts by Gov. Scott Walker to privatize local administration of federally-funded social services. Jessica Vanegreen of the Madison Capital Times reports that Walker had wanted to use private workers to run Wisconsin’s food stamp program, Food Share, and also to run Medicaid. Walker’s idea was that residents would no longer apply in person for Food Share or Medicaid services, but instead use hotline numbers. The Obama administration threatened to remove federal funding if these proposals got enacted.

But even when Walker loses, he partly wins. The state legislature did agree to consolidate staff at centers that administer food stamp benefits.

Food stamp use continues to climb

Sara Murray of the Wall Street Journal reports that nearly 44.6 million Americans received food stamps in March — or roughly fifteen percent of the entire U.S. population. So even with other indicators — like the unemployment rate — suggesting a tepid economic recovery, more families and individuals have requested financial assistance in buying groceries. The states my blogging tends to focus on have followed these trends — Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan all have seen increases in food stamp use.

The abbreviated positive take is that more people who qualify for stamps are taking advantage of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture-funded program. The negative take, of course, is that three years after Wall Street collapsed millions of Americans are still mired in poverty or near poverty.

How bad is food stamp fraud?

The use of food stamps, funded in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture budget, has steadily increased over the last decade. Most media outlets have, for the most part, viewed this is as a good thing — a program with low overhead directly helping poor people. But the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Raquel Rutledge and Jason Stein report fraud has “tainted” the use of food stamps, though it’s not clear if the fraud is widespread or pernicious. However, if food stamp use continues to rise, federal and state government must do a better job at investigating fraud. (more…)

Putting a face to food stamp recipients

The Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would have the state’s Dept. of Human Services study the cost of putting ID photos on resident’s Illinois “Link” — i.e. food stamp — cards. As the legislation moves to the Illinois senate, it’s not clear if the bill is a solution in search of a problem, as there is little evidence that widespread food stamp fraud exists. The debate comes as 900,000 people in Illinois — and 43 million, or 13 percent, of all Americans are enrolled in food stamps, the federally paid for, state-administered nutrition program. (more…)

Hungry not getting food stamps

Julie Wurth of the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette localizes a national study on hunger by Feeding America, a hunger relief organization. The study finds that of the 79,000 people who are “food insecure” in East Central Illinois, 55 percent do not qualify for food stamps because their income is greater than 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

This is especially unsettling because the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, b/k/a food stamps, is one of the more successful federal government responses to the recession. According to this study, though, there are thousands of hungry Americans who still do not qualify for federal food assistance.

Identifying small-scale fraud with foodstamps

Food stamps are maybe the best-functioning part of the social safety net in both Illinois and the country.  Is there any real reason to mess with them?  Now an Illinois House committee has approved a bill requiring that all Illinois Link cards, the debit-like card used by food stamp recipients, have a photo ID.  Hannah Hess of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that not only must the full Illinois state legislature and governor approve the measure, but the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, which funds food stamps, must also sign off.  Supporting lawmakers contend the photo IDs will stop those who use a link card other than their own. However, there is little evidence food stamp fraud is a widespread problem, or that it has been costing the government a significant amount of money.

Can’t stamp out hunger if people don’t use food stamps

Only about half of the Californians eligible for food stamps actually receive them, the second worst ‘participation rate’ among states according to a federal report released Wednesday, writes Alexandra Zavis of the Los Angeles Times.

While state authorities quickly dismissed the findings as relying on obsolete data from 2008, the statistics speak for themselves. (more…)

No veggie oasis in this desert

The Obama administration wants to improve nutrition among low-income children, but one initial policy effort looks misguided. Natalie Moore of WBEZ (i.e. Chicago Public Radio) reports that Dept. of Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Janey Thornton met students at a Chicago South Side school yesterday to talk healthy eating. Thornton appeared at Richards Career Academy, a “food desert” bereft of nearby grocery stores. The Obama administration’s response to the major Chicago problem of food deserts is to change the federal food stamp program:

The continued normalization of food stamps

In November 2009, the New York Times ran a news story about how food stamps had “lost their stigma” and how 36 million people were now making use of the program. Salon even had a snarky article about how 20-something hipsters used food stamps for gourmet food. Well, a year later food stamp participation has quietly continued to skyrocket. (more…)