Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Food stamp asset test just tests our credulity

A DN editorial says that Gov. Corbett's food stamp asset test idea is -- to put it politely -- stupid:

Food stamp asset test just tests our credulity


A DN editorial says that Gov. Corbett's food stamp asset test idea is -- to put it politely -- stupid:

GOV CORBETT'S plan to reinstitute an assets limit for qualifying for food stamps - $2,000 for those under 60 and $3,250 for those who are older - is sheer economic idiocy that will hurt not only those who are struggling to put food on the table, but the rest of the commonwealth.

But before we explain, let us pause to marvel at the persistence of the pernicious myth of the "food stamp," nee "welfare queen." It remains alive and well on the Internet despite hard data to back up the notion that people are getting rich off what we now call the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The only detail that has changed: the welfare Cadillac is now a BMW.

(Besides, what luxury-car dealer would let someone with an income of $17,000 a year - 160 percent of the poverty line, - drive away in one of their expensive cars?No amount of logic would dissuade those determined to believe this myth, but consider: an asset limit is most likely to affect, not those living in poverty long term, but those who were working but lost jobs in the recession, have a modest amount of cash on hand and are trying to make it back up the income ladder.

Experts in the region say the recent spike in food-stamp usage has come in places where people had been working but lost their jobs - in Northeast Philadelphia, for example, or inner-ring suburbs like Upper Darby.

Under the Department of Public Welfare's proposal, a person's home and one car would not count as assets but cash savings (to buy a car, for example, or to cover funeral expenses) would. People scrambling to make it on unemployment insurance could find themselves forced to spend their modest nest eggs in order to get help to buy food.

Only 10 other states have asset limits that low. The $2,000 limit was set in 1980 and hasn't changed since. Adjusted for inflation, that $2,000 is worth $5,229 today. By contrast, 35 states have no asset limits for food stamps. Pennsylvania dropped its limit in 2008 in part because it wasted far more money than it saved.

Reinstituting the asset limit would deny food stamps to 2 percent of Pennsylvania's 1.8 million recipients, representing a "savings" of about $85 million.

Why is the state doing this? There are no data that fraud is rampant. In fact, Pennsylvania has one of the lowest instances of fraud, according to the federal government. And here's the real mystery: SNAP is a federal program; it is not even financed by the state. And that means that the state doesn't benefit from the savings; in fact, the cuts will hurt Pennsylvania's economy. Five out of the commonwealth's top-10 businesses sell food, meaning a reduction in profits and a loss of jobs. And caseworkers will have to reopen the files of food- stamp recipients to determine their assets, adding to costs.

Fewer private jobs, higher government expenses, more hungry Pennsylvanians: It's a trifecta of stupidity. Tell the governor to re-think this idea but fast.

Follow us on Twitter and review city services on our sister site, City Howl.

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy:

Philly.com comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by Philly.com staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog
Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

It's Our Money contributors

Tips? Comments? Questions?

Holly Otterbein:

It's Our Money
Also on Philly.com
letter icon Newsletter