Food Stamp Regression in the Statehouse
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: September 26, 2013
While Congress is making up its mind on how much to slash from the food stamp program, some states are moving on their own to punish the poor by changing eligibility and other rules governing food stamps in ways that could deny vital assistance to needy people.
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In each case they seem to have taken their cue from House Republicans, who have voted not only to cut $40 billion across the next decade, but also to end waivers enacted during the darkest days of the recession that allow for more than the statutory 90-day limit for employable single adults when local jobless rates remain prohibitively high. The waivers provide help for an estimated four million needy recipients.
While Senate Democrats and President Obama have vowed to block the House plan, at least a half-dozen states have begun ending the waivers on their own. The Pew Stateline news service reports that measures to end the state waivers are well along to enactment in states like Wisconsin, where 71,000 people could face a cutoff, and Oklahoma, where 47,000 could be denied.
The waivers are designed to give states flexibility in times of high unemployment. Republicans who hold spending cuts paramount are dusting off old canards about “welfare queens” and waste, fraud and abuse, which they claim are the cause for annual food stamp costs’ doubling to $82 billion during the recession. They prefer to blame America’s undernourished poor for their plight, ignoring the fact that food stamps are the main safety net for a record 15 percent of the population.
Other holes are showing up in the safety net, including reductions in unemployment benefits in eight states that push the payout terms below the guarantee of 26 weeks. These regressive developments present a grim warning that the pains of recession are far from ending for the least fortunate Americans.
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A version of this editorial appears in print on September 27, 2013, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Food Stamp Regression in the Statehouse.
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