Food stamps: Who should be eligible?
“The Trump administration has decided that not enough people are going hungry in America,” said Paul Waldman in The Washington Post. Nearly 3 million people could lose eligibility for food stamps under new rules dramatically tightening requirements for the program. Able-bodied adults without children are already required to work or receive job training for 20 hours or more per week to get about $134 in monthly food stamps for longer than three months. A new policy finalized last week will make it tougher for states to waive those requirements for areas with unemployment levels higher than the national average. Another proposed rule would bar families with more than $2,250 in assets from receiving food stamps. So, if you have a used car to get to a minimum-wage job, “you’d be considered too rich to get food stamps.” These heartless rules will hurt workers earning minimum wage at Walmart or fast-food restaurants, and leave their kids with “rumbling in their stomachs.”
“Judging by the rhetoric, you’d think President Trump was shutting down Great Depression bread lines,” said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The White House is actually closing a loophole that allowed 2.1 million able-bodied adults to receive food stamps without working. Right now, states essentially “gerrymander” their counties to create high unemployment “areas,” to make as many people eligible for benefits as possible. The new rules will require that local unemployment be at least 6 percent, while tightening the geographic requirements. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to support fellow citizens who can work but won’t,” said Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe. Unemployment is at an all-time low, meaning it’s never been easier to find a job. Government programs should “help the needy up from dependency, not drag them further into it.”
That thinking is “misguided,” and based on misconceptions, said Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post. Getting about $1.83 a day for food—the average benefit for a family—is hardly a disincentive to work. Most food stamp participants do work, but often in unstable or low-wage jobs that leave them periodically unemployed. Many other recipients are disabled. Besides, since recipients spend their food stamps in local stores, government research shows economic activity increases by $1.50 for every dollar spent on food stamps. Unfortunately, this administration has decided “that it doesn’t suck enough to be poor.”