SNAP JUDGMENT: Corbett’s tone is changing, but the war against the hungry goes on
Last week, Gov. Corbett signaled that he may reconsider his administration’s policy to require asset tests for food-stamp applicants. This followed comments from recently appointed Department of Public Welfare chief Beverly Mackereth that she was less interested in testing assets of applicants than getting food stamps to those who need them.
That’s a refreshing sea change from former DPW chief Gary Alexander, who was responsible for the policy, claiming that he was trying to curb waste, fraud and abuse in the program – although he was alone in thinking that the program attracts fraud.
When the asset tests were imposed last year – which prohibited people under age 60 from getting food stamps if they had more than $5,500 in assets – more than 100,000 lost benefits, either because their assets were too high or they didn’t provide proper documentation.
So, while we’re glad that Corbett may be contemplating a change of heart, given other more potentially disastrous changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), we’d say it’s the least he can do.
For example, on Friday, nearly 2 million Pennsylvanians will see a reduction in their food stamps when a temporary Recovery Act increase that came during the economic downturn expires. That cut represents $5 billion overall, and $183 million in Pennsylvania.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cuts mean 21 lost meals a month for a family of four.
Imagine everyone in your family having to skip more than one meal a week. This is particularly cruel timing at the advent of a food-heavy holiday sesason.
Charities are worried about their ability to help fill the gap. But they’re even more worried about another pending disaster.
Tomorrow, the warring Congress will start the process of hammering out a new farm bill – the law that administers both farm policy and the SNAP program. Earlier this year, a failed House bill called for cutting $40 billion from the SNAP program; the Senate is pushing for smaller cuts and both sides will try to hash out a new bill.
We don’t have a good feeling about this, particularly after House Republicans failed to bring down both Obamacare and the global economy in a debt-deal disaster earlier this month. The farm-bill fight could be where they try to get even, imposing their crabbed vision for humanity – screw the hungry and poor and let them turn to charity.
The myth that the majority of food-stamp recipents are freeloaders or scamsters should have been vaporized by now, not only because the benfits are so low ($133 a month is the average per-person benefit); but the fact is, the majority of adult recipients are employed. And almost half of all recipients are children – a stunning 29 percent of children in the United States.
This is indeed Congress’ battle, but it’s also ours. Donate to the Coalition Against Hunger (hungercoalition.org) or to Philabundance (philabundance.org). Or write to Congress and say you don’t believe in starving children – and neither should they.