Sunday, December 13, 2009

Just Mean

Here's a statistic I didn't need to read first thing this morning: only 48% of those eligible received food stamps in 2007 in California, one of only two states that failed to register at least half of their eligible residents for the program. The information came in an unusually good editorial in today's Los Angeles Times. Here's the skinny:

California is a bad place to be hungry. While the demand for food stamps is increasing across the nation, people who are eligible for the program are less likely to be enrolled in it here than in any other state but Wyoming. The percentage of low-income children who eat free breakfasts at school here is also lower than the national average.

Even if the financially crippled state had to pay for food stamps and school breakfasts, its failure to feed the poor would be a source of shame. Nothing is more fundamental to society than keeping hunger at bay. But food stamps and subsidized breakfasts for children are federal programs; the state is responsible only for some administrative costs for food stamps. In other words, the state and many of its school districts are turning away money to alleviate hunger, money that would boost the spending power of impoverished households, improve the health of residents and help children achieve more in school -- all of which would improve the state's economy too.
[Emphasis added]

How is this possible? Well, some who obviously felt the poor were a bunch of frauds looking to ride the public gravy train found some interesting ways to make registering for these federally funded benefits damned near impossible. Here are just two of the tricksy requirements:

* Quarterly recertification. California is the only state that requires recipients to be recertified for eligibility every three months. Other states require recertification just twice a year. ...

* Fingerprinting. Fingerprinting of food-stamp recipients is intended to reduce fraud, so that a single person cannot receive food stamps in more than one county. But for some -- the infirm, the working poor -- simply getting to the local welfare office to be fingerprinted can be onerous enough to keep them from enrolling.

If people are too poor to provide adequate food for their families, the chances are they are also too poor to afford a car or even a monthly bus pass. If they are working at minimum wage, they also can't afford to take time off from work to stand in line to re-register and/or get fingerprinted (fingerprinted? for chrissakes, how is that supposed to stop fraud?).

If the state truly wanted to cut costs, it would get rid of such stupid and unnecessary procedures, thereby also cutting the costs of hunger. Poor families would have food, and would be able to use the money they would have spent on food on other necessities.

But this isn't really about saving the state money. It's about punishing those who are poor. And this isn't just mean, it verges on the evil.


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Blogger the bewilderness said...

"Fingerprinting of food-stamp recipients is intended to reduce fraud, so that a single person cannot receive food stamps in more than one county."

How much money do they spend, I wonder, to ensure that impoverished people do not get too much food.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous the talking dog said...

Have we not prisons and work houses? These are the institutions to which we subscribe.

Billions for "three strikes". Not one dime for human dignity.

9:27 AM  

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