Monday, September 23, 2013

Food Stamps for Adults without Dependents

The GOP's bill that recently passed in the House (which cuts food stamps), also allows states to add work requirements for many recipients. The bill also permits drug testing for people who apply for SNAP benefits (no member of Congress is subjected to drug tests before receiving their government paycheck or other federal benefits.)

The GOP's bill would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults who don't have dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely. The waivers were put in place in 2008 during the Great Recession when we had high unemployment. Guess what? We still do.

Almost 48 million poor Americans now rely on food stamps, but only about 10 percent of SNAP recipients (less than 5 million) are adults under the age 50 without dependents. Some of them may be applying for disability, but most are probably working in poverty-wage jobs --- or are still unemployed.

Those in this category are too young to qualify for a pension or Social Security benefit; so because of strict "means-testing", they may not be able to qualify for any other type federal or state programs either (such as traditional "welfare" or TANF) just BECAUSE they don't have any dependents.

Some 87 percent of SNAP participants live in a household with a child, a senior citizen, or a disabled person (according to Agriculture Department data). Around 45 percent of recipients are children under age 18 --- and 9 percent are older than 60.

While a fraction of these SNAP recipients (who are able-bodied adults without dependents) might refuse to work at a regular job (like a surfer in California), most other able-bodied adults simply can't find a job...any job at all. There are 11.3 million unemployed, but there are only 3.7 million job openings.

Counting 7.9 million part-time workers (possibly earning poverty wages) who want full-time work, that's almost 20 million under- and unemployed Americans who are still counted by the government (those who the government says hasn't yet "dropped out" of the labor force).

Many may be sick or disabled --- and many of those might be in the process of applying for disability --- or they don't qualify for disability benefits (including SSI) --- or they were wrongfully denied these benefits because of the political rhetoric to cut government spending. Some may suffer from undiagnosed mental illness, or live in economically depressed areas. There is a whole category of individuals who are unemployable for many various reasons.

Meanwhile, many those who are lobbying the Republicans in Congress for these cuts in food stamps (according to a newly released World Ultra Wealth Report), 65,505 of them hold a combined wealth of more than $9 trillion.

THE GOP CLAIM: The McCarthy memo says "newscasts tell stories of young surfers who aren't working, but cash their food stamps in for lobster."

THE FACTS: One dude did. But surfers aren't known to be hitting the lobster shack waving food stamps. Fox News interviewed a California surfer who proudly spoke of not working and using his monthly $200 in food stamps to eat. In response to the report, the Agriculture Department wrote to the state's Department of Social Services saying it was assessing the surfer's certification. USDA's Kevin Concannon said in the letter that the surfer was not a typical recipient, but acknowledged that "such an individual is technically and legally able to access nutrition assistance."

According to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican leading the push for the bill, "No law-abiding beneficiary who meets the income and asset test of the current program, and is willing to comply with applicable work requirements, will lose their benefits under the bill."

The Congressional Budget Office says that if the bill were enacted, around 1.7 million of those would be considered "able-bodied adults without dependents" and would be subjected to the restored work requirements after only three months --- whether or not there was any possibility at all of them ever finding a job...any job at all.

The government acknowledges over 4 million Americans who are currently long-term unemployed (but by other measures, we could add as many as another 8 million who are no longer being counted --- mostly those who were laid off earlier in the Great Recession (although, many may also have retired early, if they were old enough to receive a reduced Social Security benefit and pension.) One economist says the FTE employment rate is 7.7 million full-time jobs below its pre-recession trend.

Study: Both short-term and long-term unemployment increased sharply in 2008-9 during the Great Recession. But while short-term unemployment returned to normal levels by 2012, long-term unemployment has remained at historically high levels in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Changes in labor demand (vacancies and job losses) can account for almost all of the increase in long-term unemployment. The longer one has been unemployed, the less likely one is to get a callback from an employer.

What becomes of those who have no family ties and/or live alone? If must be a very lonely and desperate existence for these people if they are out of work --- and food stamps may be their only lifeline. Not accounting for the GOP's new plan, these people are already having their monthly allotment for food reduced in November from $200 to $187 a month.

If they are single without dependents (such as caring for an elderly parent or a minor child), under the GOP's plan, if they are under 50 years old and still can't find a job (any job at all), they would no longer qualify for food after being in the SNAP program for only 3 months --- unless they were enrolled in a job-training program.

NOTE TO GOP: Please post on your website where an unemployed able-bodied adult without dependents under 50 years old can apply for job training (in every city in every state) so that they may qualify to eat. Either that or, please pass a job bill and post the job listings (in every city in every state) of where they might find one of these non-existent jobs. Thanks.

The GOP's plan allows a single able-bodied adult w/o dependents to eat for 3 months after losing their job...after that, they're on their own. Happy Hunting!

Related posts by Paul Krugman:

1 comment:

  1. The new legislation states that of the total population of childless, able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 who receive food stamps, work-requirement waivers can be granted for up to 15 percent of these recipients in any given state. These waivers will be granted to areas with high unemployment rates, where jobs are clearly more difficult to come by. (This is a change from the previous policy, which granted waivers across entire states with high unemployment rates.)

    The House legislation is unlikely to become law in its entirety; it will have to be reconciled with a more moderate food stamps measure that passed the Senate earlier this year, and both chambers must approve a final compromise.