Posts Tagged: welfare

ATM error not in your favor

They are still pointing fingers in Sacramento two months after a story, tailor-made for cable TV foamers, emerged that welfare beneficiaries could cash out their aid grants at California gambling parlors.

According to a San Francisco Chronicle story by Marisa Lagos, a state commission appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger knew all about the issue four years ago, issued a ruling last year to end the practice, and then proceeded to not enforce it. (more…)

Record use of food stamps

Dave McKinney of the Chicago Sun-Times reports: “The stagnant economy and double-digit unemployment rates in parts of Illinois have led to a record number of families getting food stamps.” But hard times aren’t the only reason: the program’s accessibility and consistent federal funding are also partly responsible.  In Illinois, 781,000 households now get food stamps, an 11.9 percent jump from a year ago. Applications are rising even faster: (more…)

Not going for the easy headline on California strip club welfare ATM card story

Still stinging a week after a Los Angeles Times exposé revealed that California welfare recipients could cash out their benefits at ATMs in Indian casinos and cardrooms, comes word again via the LA Times via the that the cards, meant to feed and clothe the needy, may have been used to entice the clothes right off of performers at strip clubs around the state. (more…)

Schwarzenegger terminating welfare-to-work in California?

California’s poorest citizens have become another political football in a partisan battle in Congress over state aid.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, already a day late and $19 billion short of signing a balanced budget, is warning anyone within earshot that his state will eliminate its welfare-to-work program unless a $1.8 billion extension of additional Medicaid subsidies for California, part of a $24 billion package for various states, sails through Congress. (more…)

Welfare to be unfair in California?

Leaders of California’s 58 counties are fighting back against plans to scupper the state’s welfare programs, which they say will shift the burden on cash-strapped counties while giving up $3.7 billion in federal welfare funding. (more…)

Food Stamps v. Welfare

The Obama administration and Congress have responded to the recession by ratcheting up the Dept. of Agriculture administered food stamp program. The increase in food stamps, though, sharply contrasts to the Labor Dept.’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, better known as welfare. Here federal aid has not increased in a way commensurate to the rise in joblessness and poverty. Barbara Ehreinreich and Peter Edelman report out the contrast in a piece for the Nation: (more…)

Recession Great For Food Stamps…Bad For Welfare

The New York Times’ Jason DeParle and Robert Gebeloff have a good piece that explains how food stamps have helped millions of people in the recession. One problem, though, with the social safety net in the recessions is that welfare, or direct cash assistance, has not increased as food stamps have: (more…)

Living On Bread Alone

The New York Times’ Jason DeParle and Robert M. Gebeloff had a disquieting report this weekend that six million Americans — or 1 in 50 households — earn no income except for food stamps. This, in part, indicates as Understanding Government has looked at, that food stamps “work” as a federal social safety net program. But what about the other parts of the social safety net?

The main cash welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, has scarcely expanded during the recession; the rolls are still down about 75 percent from their 1990s peak. A different program, unemployment insurance, has rapidly grown, but still omits nearly half the unemployed. Food stamps, easier to get, have become the safety net of last resort.

DeParle and Gebeloff reported a month ago that food stamps have lost their stigma among the public, lawmakers and the White House. Improving the labor market is expected to be the next priority of the Obama administration and Congress. Maybe Obama and Congress could at least partly do for welfare what they’ve done for food stamps.

Why Food Stamps Matter

As government food aid is extended to more than ten percent of the population and as much as 40 percent of children in some towns, it’s odd that we’re not hearing well-fed politicians talking about a “government takeover of the food supply.”

Jason DeParle and Robert Gebeloff of the New York Times have done the country a service with their insightful look at the new food-stamp economy in America.  Nearly 40 million people get this form of government aid right now, and USDA officials who oversee the program estimate that 15 million more might need the benefit, but have not yet applied.

This is a social program that works.  Let’s start with the fact that food stamps are no longer stamps — they’re an electronic card that people needing help can swipe with relative anonymity.  So Americans who can’t find work but want to aren’t exposed to the stigma of pulling monopoly money out of their purses or wallets.

USDA officials realized a little marketing was in order — and came up with “an upbeat change of name . . . [w]hat most people still call food stamps is technically the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.”

It’s helping put real food on the table — DeParle and Gebeloff talk to one man who questions whether others are taking advantage of the government’s help, but who admits that he and his family now have

fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and meat, and something they had not fully expected — an enormous sense of relief.

Some are criticizing the program as just another welfare program — as if helping people out in tough times can be parsed and broken down into policy implications.  Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has even been suggesting that food stamps increase childhood obesity.   As he sips his grandé skim latté, perhaps.


Jason DeParle of the New York Times looks at how the 1996 Welfare Reform Act has hurt federal and state government’s ability to help the newly unemployed. Basically, the reforms made it really hard for unemployed people to get federal and state aid since safety net programs were transformed to give people incentives to work (like wage and child care subsidies). It also took away minimal welfare spending requirements for states. The result is that even during the worst employment crisis since the Great Depression welfare rolls are down 70 percent from what they were in the mid-90′s. Related, only 44 percent of laid-off workers nationally can claim unemployment benefits.

Like market de-regulation, welfare reform was predicated on the perpetually booming economy. The Obama administration is beginning to propose new ways to regulate the market. Will they also revamp welfare so it can be a real safety net when markets go awry?-MB