Should 40 Million Americans Lose Food Stamps?

Sep 30, 2013 20 comments Advice
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New figures have revealed that there are currently 47 million Americans dependent on food stamps every month. Although food stamps were previously thought to be the sole domain of the destitute and unemployed, this is no longer the case.

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Food Stamp Welfare Program: Under threat

Many middle-class Americans with steady incomes are feeling the pinch and need extra help through the food stamp program. However, new plans to reduce the budget of the program and impose qualification requirements are raising controversy as they threaten to worsen the plight of millions of Americans that struggle financially from month to month.

Budget cuts set to make situation harder

The House of Representatives has voted to reduce the current food stamp program budget by 5%. This equates to $4 billion a year of the total $80 billion that the program needs to sustain the millions of Americans it helps each month.

Further reform planned, more funding reductions

The House wants to enact new eligibility criteria to limit the number of Americans who qualify for the food stamp program. It also wants to:

  • Gives individual states greater powers to introduce their own requirements
  • Some being suggested concern work (type of position, whether it is full or part time) and mandating recipients of food stamps to take drug tests

In addition, the Senate is also proposing an alternative bill, reducing $400 million a year instead of the House’s large reduction figure. The Senate’s bill would reduce approximately 1/10th of the amount the House wants to take away from the program.

What are the parties saying about the proposed changes?

As with many welfare reform issues, Republicans and Democrats are in strong disagreement on how the food stamp program should be handled.

From the Republican perspective, the GOP wants to:

  • Impose work requirements to encourage those who can work and provide for themselves to do so, while channeling the assistance to those vulnerable people that need it the most.

On the other hand, Democrats maintain that:

  • The huge number of Americans using food stamps, equating to 1 in every 7 people, means that the program is already being effective at channeling assistance to the people who are in the greatest need during current high unemployment and hardship.

The history of the food stamp program

  • Initially, food stamps were introduced in at the end of the Great Depression in the 1930s to temporarily help feed the neediest within America at a time of severe economic flux. The government subsidized some blue colored stamps that could be used for people to purchase food via farms with surplus crops or stock.
  • In the 1960s, the food stamp program was reinstated and transformed into a permanent program which saw food coupons sold to people with low incomes at a discounted price.
  • In the 1970s, food stamps were distributed for free to the poor and needy.
  • In the 1980s, benefit cards were introduced to increase recipient discretion.

How the food stamp program currently works

  • Recipients are issued with special debit cards that can be used in grocery stores
  • Alcohol and cigarettes cannot be purchased with the debit cards
  • Also off-limits are nonfood items, including toiletries, household cleaning supplies or pet food
  • In 2008, the name of food stamps was officially changed to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP for short
  • Out of the 314 million Americans, 47 million per month eat food purchased via the SNAP program
  • 50% of these are children and teenagers, with 10% being seniors

The vast majority don’t receive any cash welfare. Many households that shop with SNAP cards have someone who’s employed but qualify for help because of low earnings.

What are the current eligibility criteria for food stamps?

  • A household with earnings of 30% more than the federal poverty level can get food stamps provided they do not have more than $2,000 in savings or $3,250 in savings if they are elderly and/or disabled.
  • This means a total income of $30,000 for a family of four
  • The average amount of food stamps awarded is $133 per person per month
  • A family’s allotment is calculated according to household size, earnings of working adults, expenses, inflation and the variable cost of food plus other factors.
  • Currently, many states allow for automatic SNAP qualification if individuals receive support from some other welfare programs, even if they do not satisfy the restrictive SNAP eligibility requirements.

Do you agree or disagree with the plans to reduce funding made to the SNAP program? Shares your comments!

 

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  • Maureen McKinney

    I think the food stamp program is one of the few vestiges of the American Social Welfare System and should be preserved. We treat our poor terribly in the United States – it is embarrassing compared to how systems like those in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the United Kingdom run. When we stop punishing people for being poor or shaming them for having less, we will learn a lot more about how to progress equally as a nation.

  • memphis2

    If there are 47 million recipients, and the Republicans have proposed a 5% spending cut, that would represent 2.4 million people coming off the rolls, not 40 million as the headline says.
    There are wealthy people who are receiving food stamps. The automatic qualification for food stamps has also been abused by the states. In some states, they were granting $1.00 fuel subsidies under the much looser standards available for heating subsidies, because that mad a household of 4 eligible for $600 per month in food stamps. There is no longer a resources test in most states, so someone with $1,000,000 in savings can qualify for food stamps.

  • pablo

    in some cases the “poor” do better than some middle class. With all of the free $ the poor have access to along with the many discounts they get just for being poor, they have the ability to rake in about $60K a yr in money and benefits. Most of it tax free. Some of those programs include: welfare, SNAP, utility payment assistance, section 8 housing, obamaphones, medicaid, free job training programs, discounted child care, that program for new mothers that gives out the free cheese and many more programs. It’s not uncommon for people to live off of the govt benefits that we the tax payer subsidizes.

  • nickthecat

    BS…the ‘poor’ in America have NO IDEA what it’s really like to be poor.

  • Ken3580

    It has nothing to do with “should they loose…” That kind of question is the language of a self-centered, “entitled” society. In other words, we’re a society of spoiled brats. The real question is, “will they loose their food stamps.” And if we don’t learn to be responsible as a society, a time is rapidly coming when we will have an economic collapse the likes have never been seen on this earth. Millions will starve to death and there will be nothing that Congress or the president will be able to do about it. So rather than point fingers at the Republicans like a bunch of spoiled brats, we should be thanking them for attempting to teach the rest of us how to be responsible and to curb our spending so that we all don’t die in a depression caused mass famine in a few years.

  • fritzeflink

    I really hope John Boehner and his ilk will one day rot in hell. They all deserve it. On Sunday’s they go to church, sing Hallelujah and score points for the afterlife and on Monday they are stabbing the weakest of their fellow countrymen in the back. Shame on you!

  • Selena

    No Government food stamps? Get a free Government phone! Wow is this country Fu*ked!

  • gt6303c

    Before we start going after the poorest in our society to balance the budget, let’s get some perspective. $400 million in savings on a budget of $3.54 trillion is about 0.1% savings. If we are serious about balancing the budget, not just now, but in the future as well, these are the things we need to look at. Cap military spending ($929 billion in 2012) at 3% of GDP that is was in the Clinton years, means testing for medicare, raise social security age and change the way inflation is calculated for adjustments. If you ignore these obvious things necessary to balance a budget, while going after programs for the poor, you aren’t being a budget hawk, you are just being vindictive. Now, I understand that some people’s argument against food stamps is that it allows companies to pay workers below a living wage, and if that is your argument, I agree that some reform is necessary. If your argument is balance the budget, you aren’t being serious.

  • George Goda

    Raise your own kids I did it came to USA with 40.00 never got stamps, welfare or Unempl,oyment insurance. Unless you disabled get a job you lazy jackasses

  • My Epiphany

    And they should NOT find out.

  • sysadminpgh

    Put limits on WHAT is allowed to be purchased with MY tax dollars! No more pop, candy, chips, lobsters, and gas. End the BS of these cards being used at Sheetz and fast food joints. End the BILLIONS of Food Stamps being sent to Mexican addresses! End all Food Stamps to illegals. Let their countries pay their way.

  • michelle

    So because they aren’t as poor as the poor in other countries, we should all shut the hell up? We are the wealthiest nation! We can do better than what we are doing! There’s a name for people who have no empathy or a desire to help those struggling.

  • michelle

    Id like to tell you what you can do with your tax dollars. Lobster…really? They buy junk food because healthy food is too expensive! Self righteous and mean spirited.

  • Carl

    End all Food Stamps to illegals.

  • jlwhithaus

    I agree with reducing the funding. Churches and Christians help those who are truly needy. Hunger is not a problem in the U.S. There is more than enough private food charity to feed all those in need. We must not take this honor from Christians and private charities. It degrades people to do so.

  • Elizabeth

    Actually its not easy to get food assistance nor insurance here. I had a baby what do they do in the state of Michigan? Took my insurance so I could not follow up with my Dr. Post pardom is not something healthy to go without a Dr. On another note its not right to take help from those who need it and give it to the drug addicts that are just guna sell it anyhow. When I was stuck on govt. help all the foreign people went ahead of me. Its not right. Nothing is fair.

  • allforhim17

    You all have interesting things to say. I have said many of the same things, too. Then we arrived at this current point in our lives. I became no longer healthy enough to maintain a job. We have three small children and my husband earns 35,000 a year. We lost our insurance since it was provided through my job. We work hard to try and make ends meet. Yet, we are mired in medical debt. We have always made sure to get food first, but The creditors aren’t exactly happy that this is the case. Many of the people using food stamps are in similar situations; just trying to get a leg up so we can do it on our own. We carry a great deal of embarrassment that we have to ask for help. But, the truth is, we would do anything, no matter how humiliating if it means we have a home with utilities that are turned on and food for our kids to eat. Take some time to educate yourselves on the lives of the people you are labeling with your numbers. It’s practically impossible to realize the full breadth of any government program unless you find yourself fully immersed in it.

  • John Dedon

    The system needs to be reformed so only those that truly need it, get it. As everything the federal (and local) governments do it is corrupt and wasteful. Fix it, then help those who really need it, but free ride can’t last forever!

  • John Dedon

    Also how much more do you want the taxpayer to take on! Never took a dime from any government organization need more taxpayers not “poor”.

  • American4Truth

    I get tired of seeing people with smartphones and nice cars get snap. I believe that if you are struggling enough to get other tax payer funded entitlements, then you should not be allowed to have smart phones, cable or satellite tv service, and cars. If you need to get to work, then take the bus, get a ride with a friend, or walk. Raising taxes on families that are struggling financially, but barely above the poverty level puts undue stress on these families and it is not fair.