House Republicans Vote To End Food Stamp Program As We Know It

I remarked awhile ago that parts of the House Republican Study Committee’s global attack on “welfare” could make their way into legislation that had a better chance of passing.

And sure enough. The budget plan House Republicans have passed includes a provision that would convert SNAP (the food stamp program) into a block grant rather like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Lest one doubt the motive, the plan projects savings totaling $127 billion over the first 10 years alone. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates losses to the District of Columbia and its food stamp-dependent households at $350 million.

I’ve written elsewhere about what the block grant could mean for households that depend on food stamps to keep food on the table.

Briefly, the block grant would put an inflexible constraint on spending, while presumably increasing flexibility on issues like participation criteria and benefits.

So Congress or states, at their discretion, could — and probably would have to — change eligibility standards so that people would have to be even poorer to qualify for food stamps and/or reduce monthly benefits so that they no longer had any basis in the costs of a nutritious diet.

We can see how the spending cap/flexibility model could play out by looking at states’ TANF programs.

According to a recent Legal Momentum review, only 40% of eligible families were enrolled in TANF in 2005, as compared to 84% in the last year of its non-block grant predecessor.

Cash benefits for a TANF family of three are less than 50% of the federal poverty line in every states and less than 30% in more than half. In all but two, they’re worth less in real-dollar value than when the program was created.

The food stamp block grant proposal has other radical implications.

It would end the long-standing principle that everyone (except some immigrants) whose income falls below the cut-off can get food stamps — and for as long as their income remains that low.

As with TANF, there would be new work requirements. But unlike TANF, there’d apparently be no federal funding within the program for client assessments, job training or the supportive services some recipients would need to meet the requirements, e.g., child care subsidies.

More importantly, food stamp benefits would be time-limited, just as TANF cash benefits are. After some number of years, people would be kicked out of the program, unless states chose to cover the full costs of the benefits themselves.

Would there by any exemptions — say, for people who are too young, too old or too disabled to work? For people who are working but still can’t afford to buy enough food for themselves or their families?

The budget plan doesn’t say. Doubtful the House members who voted for it — or even the drafters — have thought through such consequential details.

All they’re concerned about is cutting federal spending, except when it comes to the more than 50% of annual appropriations that go to the military.

But, like the RSC, the budget plan styles the food stamp block grant as the next step in “the historic bipartisan welfare reform” that gave us TANF.

Here’s hoping we’ve got no bipartisan support for this one — or lock-step support from Senate Republicans either.

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23 Responses to House Republicans Vote To End Food Stamp Program As We Know It

  1. [...] animadverted before about House Republicans’ seeming romance with [...]

  2. Ms. Strawn says:

    I wish I could actually meet someone who was in need of food stamps. The families that I know (and I know many) that are on it do not need it but are using the government funded program in order to be able to spend money elsewhere. I could provide you with the names and address of these families who own homes, drive nice cars and are all stay at home moms. They all have the ability to work but would rather stay home while there fiancés (who they have no plan of marring because then they would be unable to suck off the government) work full time and bring home a paycheck that would make them unable to collect food stamps. I don’t know one person/family that is using food stamps that would not be able to afford food themselves. Google search Old Dirty Bastered getting food stamps. He is a rapper who made millions and was still collecting food stamps!!!! Did he really need food stamps?? Of course not and over Half the people on the program don’t need it but will take advantage of it as it is seen as “free” money. If the government no longer provided this program that would not stop churches, charities and food banks from providing for families in need. This program is not needed, and until I meet at least one family/person that needs it I will never be convinced.

  3. Kathryn Baer says:

    Well, Ms. Strawn, you clearly live in a very privileged, closed-in world. I myself am aware of many families who wouldn’t have enough to eat without food stamps. And my immediate circle is pretty privileged too.

    It is certainly the case, however, that families apply for food stamps so that they can spend money elsewhere—on rent, for example, clothing for their children, prescribed medications, etc. What would you suggest they cut back on?

    As for Old Dirty Bastard, that’s an old, old publicity stunt. Try using some more relevant search terms. Or take a look at these stories on the Half in Ten story map, http://halfinten.org/stories/category/290

  4. [...] to expect a House budget plan much like last year’s. That would mean, among other things, a food stamp block grant structured to cut federal spending for the program by some $127 billion over the first ten [...]

  5. A Person Speaking The Truth says:

    Look, we’ve got Marines, soldiers, cops and firemen dying every day to protect us. They go in without proper equipment, go in suicidal battles because of the idiots in DCs stupid “rules of engagement” and “sensitivity”, yet some people who have never worked a day in their lives demand billions of dollars so they can get by?
    Two words, and pardon their blunt nature. No wait, three: Screw those guys. These lazy, incompetent dropouts probably never once wore a uniform in life. Call me conceited if you like. Unproductive black holes light them will NOT live off my money. They did not EARN it. Semper fi my fellow Americans. The few and the proud in the Corps earned every penny we give them.

  6. Kathryn Baer says:

    This is the truth only insofar as it expresses your views. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 30% of food stamp households include at least one member who works. Well over half of all food stamp recipients are too young, too old or too disabled to work. They include veterans!

  7. Melissa says:

    I know several people around here (WV) who use the government assistance programs as entitlement programs. There are so many drug and alcohol abusers who suck from the program to support their habits. Many are able to work but don’t. Others do work, but request minimal hours or cash payment in order to work but still draw from these government programs. These people eat better that my family, drive much nicer – often new – vehicles than those who work, and can afford much more than I can as a hard-working person. Sometimes I get so frustrated because those who abuse the system cause people like us to want the system done away with, when, in reality, there are those few who honestly need that little boost to make it through until they can get on their feet. Unfortunately, the abusers far outweigh those honestly in need. And because of that, I am sick to death of paying so much in taxes from the money my husband and I work hard for, just to pay for these lazy “entitled” people to live better than I do!!

  8. Kathryn Baer says:

    I’d be the last one to say that no one games the system, Melissa. But far more people truly need food stamp benefits. According to the latest figures, nearly half of the families with children who receive food stamp benefits have at least one person working. Many other recipients lost their jobs due to the recession and are looking for work. Still others (more than a quarter of the total) are too old or severely disabled to work. Please consider this when you get so frustrated you want the food stamp program done away with.

  9. Proud NeoCon a True American says:

    The government should eliminate all entitlement programs. The only thing they accomplish is make people lazier while placing America deeper in debt. According to the bible if you don’t work you don’t. Guess what, can’t work also falls under don’t work. That means anyone that is too disabled to work is also too disabled to live, plain and simple.

  10. Kathryn Baer says:

    This is simply shocking. I don’t know what Bible you read, but it’s very different from the one I’m familiar with. Both the old and new testaments tell us that we have obligations to one another, especially the less fortunate.

    You identify yourself as a neocon. But no neocon I’ve ever read shares your view that people with severe disabilities should die–or for that matter, others who can’t earn enough to support themselves and their children. There are, recall, children involved in the extraordinarily harsh policy position you advocate.

  11. Scottar says:

    Many people just don’t have the money to be free of food stamps, especially those on social security. But that doesn’t mean there could be restrictions. Like limiting what you can buy like sodas, fast foods, pizza, snacks and candy. Perhaps a food buying guide for the best nutrition per buck. Some snacks are nutritious, some foods are not.

    Eligibility should be screened too. There are some who are living in houses they can no longer afford. They have vehicles they can’t afford, cable TV and other amenities that they don’t really need for subsistence. There should be assessments for those people who just want to continue affluency while living on the government dole.

    But It’s hard to enforce for single mothers who have a live-in boyfriend. Then there’s those who sell the food for tobacco and alcohol but they shouldn’t last long on a poor diet. But then the practice of states abusing the system could be modified like the practice of providing people with as little as $1 a year in home heating assistance, even if they don’t have a heating bill, so they can automatically qualify them for greater food stamp benefits of up to $100 a month.

    Not everybody can be assessed by hard and fast rules. Some are just victims of the economy. Many people who are over 50 can’t find jobs like they use to before the crash. Their skills are no longer marketable against younger and more viable candidates. It’s an employers market and the jobs that paid big bucks have been downgraded. Employees are expected to do more for less. Older employees are viewed as productivity liabilities against more younger and robust candidates.

    And if you have been unemployed too longer you most likely going to find it very hard to get replacement employment, especially if your over 50. It depends on your education and past jobs skills. Health issues can also make it hard to find employment.

    But the biggest problem is bureaucracy and a top heavy public service sector that burdens the economy and taxpayers excessively. Businesses both large and small are reluctant to hire when they don’t know what new taxes and regulations are going to hit them. They won’t pay as much either.

    Then they are politicos who get liberal for votes and expand programs beyond reason.

  12. Kathryn Baer says:

    I agree with what you say about “victims of the economy,” especially the troubles that older jobless workers are facing. See, for example, http://povertyandpolicy.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/long-term-unemployment-update-shows-jobless-workers-handicapped-by-age/

    I strongly disagree that the biggest problem in our country is “bureaucracy and a top heavy public service sector.” Also with your view that uncertainty, rather than lack of demand accounts for sluggish hiring.

    I’ll confine myself here, however, to a couple of points you make about the food stamp program. First, there already are restrictions on what food stamps can purchase. With some very limited exceptions, they can’t be used for fast foods—or anything else prepared in a restaurant.

    There have, of course, been efforts to impose other restrictions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has thus far rejected these. I discuss the reasons here: http://povertyandpolicy.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/new-york-city-mayor-aims-to-restrict-food-stamp-choices/

    Second, the food stamp program includes nutrition education. States may get federal funds for a variety of efforts aimed at promoting healthy eating and physical activity. As of last fiscal year, all states had approved plans for such activities.

    Third, food stamp applicants are screened for income-eligibility. Certain assets like a house and a car aren’t counted. But this hardly means that food stamp recipients live in “affluency.” The standard gross income cut-off is 130% of the federal poverty line. The cut-off after allowable deductions is 100% of the FPL.

  13. Child of the City says:

    You know its funny I hear all these people talking about how the people who receive these benefits are lazy and dont want to work etc. etc. I have friend who can’t work and her son works at Burger King (not a manager just a minimum wage employee) just so they can have money to pay her government substadized rent. People have you ever though of what will happen if this program is cut or reduced too much. Many of the people who use this program may use it in correctly but a lot do not. If you think crime is bad now it will be a lot worse when people start to need food for themselves or children and criminals are getting more bold than they use to. I live in St. Louis, one of the worse cities in the U.S. and this will just cause a bad chain reaction. There are not enough police to handle all of the issue now so what do you think will happen if there becomes a food shortage because restricting food stamps for some will be causing exactly that, and before some one makes a statement about the guns and blowing away some criminal who breaks in their home or what ever just remember criminals can have guns too. Yes some people abuse the privlidge but more do not and it seems the ones who always judge are the ones who have never been on assistance. Im not on it but I gaurantee that at least 60% of my area is and more joining everyday. The jobs are scarse and the jobs that will hirer you wont give you enough hours to earn enough money or just dont pay enough all together. This program is needed and I know a few do abuse it but many don’t and I know one thing when the food starts to become a problem the crime that everyone talks about in the inner cities and all of the bad neighborhoods in every state are going to spread to those stable middle class and affluent neighborhoods. There are more people with out stable lives than people with them. They are cutting unemployment, they are reducing food stamps, jobs are drying up, people are losing things that are part of their basic necessities. Crime will travel and dont assume that break ins are the only way that crime will happen( for all of you gun enthusist) a gun is an offensive weapon not defensive even though it can be used for defense but one rule in the city is shoot first ask questions last and how can you draw your weapon if your shot in the back. This is adding up to be a disaster and the people on the bottom are already use to the ignorance and crime I just hope the world is ready. There are not enough police, and if the program cuts out to many, moral views become skewed. I see this being a bad thing. Change the rules of screening and you will cut out who does not need it or who is abusing it, but by changing the program the way they are its not gonna be good,especially for those people who are not use to the areas filled with crime. If criminals don’t care about the laws and will shoot police officers without blinking, what do you think they will do to a regular citizen for food.

  14. Kathryn Baer says:

    Thank you for these thoughts. A few responses.

    Very few people who receive food stamp benefits aren’t eligible for them. Last year, only 3% of all benefits were overpayments, and only some of those were payments to households who weren’t eligible.

    Over three-quarters of the people who receive food stamps are children, seniors or people with disabilities — not people we’d expect to work. It sounds as if your friend is one of them.

    It’s important to know, however, that 30% of food stamp households had at least one working member, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    With the minimum wage as low as it is, even a full-time minimum wage worker in Missouri might be eligible — almost certainly would be if s/he were supporting dependents.

    Lastly, I personally am much more concerned by the prospect of a spike in hunger than in crime. I’d like to think you are too and just trying to strike fear in the hearts of middle-class Americans. That’s not necessary. Polls show that large majorities oppose food stamp cuts.

  15. gator says:

    It seems that we are creating a nation of idiots that have no honour,or personal responsabilty.a nation of spoiled children that have forgotten their parents once took care of them and take no second glance at family members who can’t provide for themselves all the while spewing have not’s and i wanna out of their mouths. instead of i can , watch me ,and i do.years ago their was no food stamp system .and guess what ? people survived . they were responsible for their selves and their own families . now we preach gov. dependance guess im old fashioned but my father raised a man. i and i alone am resposible for my wellbeing and that of my family . i expect no help from no one nor will i accept it . while i beleive in helping someone in need,helping means helping not liveing off of. i beleive the system should be changed to a system of sustaining life instead of buying what you want with stamps you get a sack of rice and a bottle of water .to be eligeable you must complete a course designed to teach you how to provide for youreself.last i checked their’s still fish in the water and seeds are cheap.

  16. Proud NeoCon, A True American says:

    Kathryn, look at 2 Thessalonians 3rd chapter, 10th verse in the bible. It clearly states “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you: that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” In other words if you don’t work you don’t eat. Can’t work falls under don’t work so either work, or die. Anyone can work if they try hard enough..Those that are “too disabled to work” are too disabled to live because they are just hiding behind their fake, made-up illnesses that were created by the whiny, commie demoncrat terrorists to destroy America and all she stands for today.

  17. Kathryn Baer says:

    Well, Proud NeoCon, I could cite other Biblical verses that enjoin very different attitudes toward poor people. Even the verse you cite, in fact, refers only to people who “would not work”—in other words, people who could, but choose not to.

    It’s simply absurd to argue that anyone can work—and presumably earn enough to feed themselves and their families—if only they try hard enough. I could cite a host of figures that prove the contrary, e.g., the high percent of working poor families, the percent of elderly people who rely on food stamps and/or nonprofit feeding programs.

    And frankly, it’s obscene to allege that people with severe disabilities have “fake, made-up illnesses” created by Democrats. Perhaps you should visit a group home or a hospital for veterans who’ve returned from our wars.

    Happily, America today stands for our collective responsibilities for the well-being of us all. Our programs don’t fulfill those responsibilities as well as they could, but large majorities support their purposes.

  18. Proud NeoCon, A True American says:

    The same “working poor” families also find some way to afford luxuries such as expensive cell phones, large screen TVs, a computer, expensive shoes, etc. They also find the extra money for booze, cigarettes, and even illegal drugs. If they can afford that crap while on food stamps imagine what they could afford without all of the luxuries and drugs. Naturally the whiny commie demoncrat terrorists will always blame the rich for the failings of the “working poor” My grandparents worked through poverty with no luxuries and no socialist programs helping them out yet turned out just fine.

    Today the whiny commie demoncrat terrorists are creating fake diseases to broaden the definition of “disabled.” If you think ADHD, autism, fibromyalgia, depression, or social anxiety are real then you are living a lie. None of those conditions are real. Even so anyone that has a real disability can find some way to work if they try hard enough. If not then why should these lazy bums be given anything?

    BTW, “collective responsibilities for the well-being of us all” is just yet another term for socialism. Socialism does fulfill its purpose, and its purpose is to make people lazy and dependent on the welfare state. The welfare state will destroy America which is why the demoncrats are all for the communist, welfare state. Which is why they b#tch, moan. whine and cry about vast, right-wing conspiracies controlling everything. The only action you demoncrats apparently do beyond that is commit treason by giving aid and comfort to your friends, the terrorists.

  19. Kilkee says:

    Proud Neocon: really? Fake diseases? Where did you go to med school? Have you ever met an autistic child? You think they are “faking” their disease? At age 6? And all of the ones i’ve met have nothing to do with welfare; apparently they are faking it because they enjoy causing endless heartache to themselves and their families. You are too stupid for words, and evil beyond that, as well.

  20. Billy says:

    Proud NeoCon, A True American, you have a bad outlook. Kathryn is right. I am a former Marine. I am a terminally ill patient, my wife is classed as mildly retarded (J.A.S.). I have two grown kids(out on their own), and two small ones at home.Before I fell ill, I work my butt off and made GOOD money. The economy crashed, I lost my job and insurance. My health deteriorated, and my wife was labeled unable to work due to mental capacity. Living just with the monies from my DISABILITY INSURANCE and until The SNAP program played into our lives, We wondered how were to feed our children, and see to their needs, and pay our rent and light bill, and still afford to pay the more than $2000 a month in medicines to try and improve my health. Of course the children came first and I had to do without my life giving medications, which is why I now am terminally ill. SNAP took a portion of that expense from me by making sure that me, my wife, and my two small boys(ages 2 and 5, so way to young to work,hint your Bible qoutes) have JUST enough food for healthy meals. So to CORRECT you about “can’t work” and “don’t work”. They are sooo different. I know, I live it.

  21. Kathryn Baer says:

    Billy, I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story, sad as it is. As you probably know, House Republicans have just passed a bill that would cut SNAP benefits for many families and kick even more of them out of the program. One of the leaders says that the goal of the program (and other safety net programs) should be “to give people a temporary hand so they can get out of poverty.” I can only wonder what he would say to you.

  22. Proud NeoCon A True American says:

    Ah, kilkee is throwing a wittle temper tantrum so I must be right. Never said anything about “faking” anything yet somehow you whined about me saying it. Autism is a fake disease and I knew a few children that were diagnosed as “Autistic” when they simply lacked the proper discipline. Once the parents finally gave the proper discipline the children somehow lost their “autistic” traits. But keep your whining going, you only make yourself look stupid.

    Billy, then why can’t you find another job? Oh, that’s right, you want the welfare checks the government gives you every month for being lazy. That is the bible verse, in black and white “You don’t work you don’t eat” and yes can’t work does fall under don’t work. Odd how demoncrat sheep whine about not having enough even though they smoke, get drunk, and use drugs.

    Kathryn, that is the excuse you whiny commie demoncrat terroists used to get it passed. Just look at the results, more people have an entitlement attitude today than they ever have. The lazy think they are entitled to everything so the steal and live off the backs of others. You whiny commie demoncrat terrorists love it because you know it will destroy America. All you demoncrats do is bitch, moan, whine and cry about some invisible vast, right-wing conspiracy controlling everything. The only action you demoncrats do beyond that is commit treason by giving aid and comfort to your friends, the terrorists.

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