AP Report on Food Stamp Program's Loose Rules Begs the Question: Why Now?

Three years ago, fellow Ohio blogger Matt Hurley at Weapons of Mass Discussion learned of a situation in Warren County where food stamp benefits were approved in a situation "where the family have over $80,000 in bank, own a 2001 Toyota and 2006 Mercedes Benz, and a $311,000 home that is paid for ... (with) monthly benefits of over $500 ..."

In a column I wrote at the time, I asked (pretty much knowing the answer) if "food stamps for the well-off" was "a national trend." Well, as if there was ever any doubt, the Associated Press finalized that answer tonight in an unbylined rundown of a series of pervasive situations which show how routine and extensive the waste in the program really is:


States' efforts to increase food stamp benefits

States seeking a larger share of the nearly $80 billion a year the federal government hands out for food stamps have resorted to several practices that some lawmakers say are abuses of the system:

- Fourteen states and the District of Columbia make use of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Paying people as little as $1 a year for heating assistance, even if they don't have a heating bill, automatically qualifies them for greater food stamp benefits. Critics say that can result in households getting up to $100 extra a month in food stamps.

Those 14 states are California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

- The Congressional Research Service says 43 jurisdictions - 40 states plus D.C., Guam and The Virgin Islands - employ what is called "broad-based categorical eligibility" that allows individuals with assets greater than the food stamp limit to receive benefits as long as they receive some other federal benefit such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Thirty-nine of those jurisdictions have waived the statutory asset test for food stamps. Some states make all households with incomes below a state-determined threshold eligible for food stamps simply by sending households a TANF brochure or referral to a telephone hotline.

So the only question remaining, especially given that the story from three years ago, though covered a bit by Ohio's media (while of course failing to give credit to Hurley), really didn't break out of the Buckeye State, is: Given that the looseness went into overdrive as the recession deepened but hasn't been reversed even though we're supposedly in a recovery, why is the AP deciding that this story is worthy now?

Remember this post the next time you hear someone claim that there's nowhere government programs can be cut.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.