Sunday, April 10, 2016

243.7 - Outrage of the Week Number 1: 1 million losing Food Stamps

Outrage of the Week Number 1: 1 million losing Food Stamps

Next up is our other regular feature, this is the Outrage of the Week.

And just like with the Clown Award, there have been a plethora of possibilities. So since we've been away for two week, we decided to pick two.

First up: One of the little-known provisions of the SNAP program is its designation of "Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents," referring to low-income adults aged 18-49 and without children. This group includes some of the poorest people in the US, earning, on average, only 17 percent of the official poverty rate, or barely $150-170 per month in income.

Nonetheless, the 1996 welfare deform (that is not a typo) law imposes work requirements on them. They are eligible for only 90 days of food stamp benefits unless they have paid employment or job training for at least 20 hours a week

In the wake of the financial collapse of 2008, states with high unemployment could apply for waivers of that requirement. But the standards were tough - unemployment not only had to be high, it had to be significantly higher than the national average. As the official unemployment rate has come down, fewer states can qualify for the waivers and fewer still have sought to get them.

In 2015, 22 states began re-imposing the work requirements. And this year, 22 more will join them. The 90-day clock on benefits started running on January 1 - which means it ran out on April 1 and adults who no longer qualify have begun losing their benefits.

As a result, it is estimated that as many as 1 million people - again, including the poorest of the poor - will lose the food stamps this year, always with the same tired cliches that get thrown at the poor that assume they are just shiftless or lazy: The work requirement will "encourage people to rejoin the workforce." It will "discourage dependency." And perhaps the worst: "Anybody can find a 20-hour a week job."

Well, the fact is that the average length of time it takes unemployed Americans to find new work is now roughly 30 weeks, which is less than the record set in 2011 but is still 2.5 times the 90 days the work requirement allows.

Will these requirements encourage work? Will they "discourage dependency?" Of course not. The notion of the shiftless, lazy poor is a vile fantasy concocted to justify our own indifference to the needs of others. What they will do is increase hunger at the expense of - I say it again - the poorest of the poor in this country. And it is happening in silence, with barely a mention if there is mention at all from any major political figure.

And that is an Outrage.

Sources cited in links:

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