1-800-FOOD-STAMPS: How states expand eligibility for welfare program

posted at 5:01 pm on August 2, 2012 by Rob Bluey

Getting food-stamp benefits can now be as easy as picking up an informational brochure or calling a toll-free number, according to a new report out this week from the Government Accountability Office. More than 40 states have lowered eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, resulting in a vast expansion of the welfare state under President Obama.

During fiscal year 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp Program, provided food and nutrition assistance to almost 45 million individuals each month for a total of $71.8 billion in benefits for the year. SNAP is intended to help low-income individuals and families obtain a better diet by supplementing their incomes with benefits to purchase food. Over the last 10 years, SNAP participation has more than doubled and costs have quadrupled.

The expansion began during the Bush administration and has only accelerated in recent years on Obama’s watch. This chart tells the story:

GAO’s report, which came at the request of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), examines why more Americans than ever before are relying on food stamps. And while the poor economy certainly played a factor, states did their part to expand eligibility as well. Here’s how they do it:

For example, in states like Alabama, Hawaii and Montana, a brochure automatically triggers eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In California, Kentucky, Maine and Nebraska, state-issued pamphlets or “resource guides” convey the same eligibility. Other states use a variety of other methods, including notices on the program’s application and a variety of other printed materials.

In states like Delaware, the program application “refers to a pregnancy prevention hotline.” For Oklahoma, SNAP participation may be obtained through a website and an “800 number about marriage classes,” according to a report on SNAP eligibility produced by the Congressional Research Service.

Now, granted, it’s not as easy as just dialing a number. The federal government still requires a household’s income to fall within the state’s specified limit. But as the GAO investigation revealed, “2.6 percent (473,000) of households that received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would not have been eligible for the program without broad-based categorical eligibility (BBCE) because their incomes were over the federal SNAP eligibility limits.”

That’s a sizable number and a factor in the program’s rapid growth. But how do we reverse it? Robert Rector and Katherine Bradley of The Heritage Foundation last week outlined the need for reform, noting that there’s little incentive to change given current federal policies:

Since the federal government pays for 100 percent of the cost of food stamp benefits, state governments have a financial incentive to enroll as many individuals as possible in the program.

Unfortunately, even legislative steps in the GOP-controlled House haven’t amounted to much. The so-called “farm bill” that won approval from the House Agriculture Committee shaved only 2 percent from the Obama-era levels. The Senate version would lock in spending at $80 billion per year for the next decade.

It all adds up to a simple reality: “The Obama administration wants to make Americans more dependent on government, not less.”

Rob Bluey directs the Center for Media and Public Policy, an investigative journalism operation at The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertBluey


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Weening will not be fun. Seldom is.

Bmore on August 2, 2012 at 5:06 PM

And yet calling Obama the “Food Stamp President” is racist.

Bitter Clinger on August 2, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Sorry Weaning. iPad thingy?

Bmore on August 2, 2012 at 5:07 PM

Welcome to the bread line and rationed vodka comrade!

uncommon sense on August 2, 2012 at 5:07 PM

“Isn’t it ironic that the food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to please not feed the animals, because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.”

Leftards are offended at this? Well then, I’m even more schadenfreudig.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:08 PM

Buy stocks in pacifiers, diapers and the likes.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:09 PM

uncommon sense on August 2, 2012 at 5:07 PM

Potato’s or is it Potatoe’s ? /

Bmore on August 2, 2012 at 5:09 PM

Obama is the biggest destroyer of America and of decency.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:09 PM

Um, where will they get the money from to keep 0bama’s Food Stamps Program solvent when it was 0bama himself that signed into law the bill that STOLE over 12 BILLION from it to pay off the Teacher Unions?

Democrats cut food stamps subsidy to bailout teachers unions

Doing the work the LAZY Romney supporters refuse to do.

DannoJyd on August 2, 2012 at 5:10 PM

Share this will all you know, until Nov. 6.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:11 PM

…our plan works!

KOOLAID2 on August 2, 2012 at 5:11 PM

I am not an Obama fan. However government programs which are mostly for good intentions have been abused by people who game the system for decades under all presidents.

blaming obama for the number of people using food stamps is ridiculous.

were having a great deperession for many people.

Now blaming him for not cracking down on abusers of this program is a different issue.

gerrym51 on August 2, 2012 at 5:12 PM

Obama is the biggest destroyer of America and of decency.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:09 PM

The GOP Insiders are not far behind.

DannoJyd on August 2, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Bmore on August 2, 2012 at 5:09 PM

Tomato, tomatoe??? :-)

uncommon sense on August 2, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Cloward-Piven, baby!

rockmom on August 2, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Food stamps need to get out of D. Ag. That no longer makes any sense, and it means that those that support ‘farm bills’, (wrong in itself) get sucked into supporting exploding food stamps.

Here’s my plan:

Year One of benefits: SNAP card regular size
Year Two of benefits: SNAP card regular size, fluorescent orange
Year Three of benefits: SNAP card double area, fluorescent orange
Year Four of benefits: SNAP card 4x area, fluorescent orange, with hole punched for neck string

There should be a stigma attached to being a grifter.

slickwillie2001 on August 2, 2012 at 5:14 PM

The GOP Insiders are not far behind.

DannoJyd on August 2, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Out with McConnell…in the next round.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:16 PM

By the way, in case anyone is curious, illegal aliens are indeed eligible for, and receiving food stamps.

Vashta.Nerada on August 2, 2012 at 5:20 PM

provided food and nutrition assistance to almost 45 million individuals each month for a total of $71.8 billion in benefits for the year.

They could really get this from the “one percent”…however, that’s not the point. The point is to nail those of us in the middle class because we’re the most dangerous to their power and need to be destroyed.

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 2, 2012 at 5:21 PM

Out with McConnell…in the next round.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:16 PM

I would LOVE to be PERSONALLY involved in that effort. Instead I’m off to again man the TEA Party Patriots booth at the County Fair.

For those living in Michigan, don’t forget to vote next Tuesday. I need all of the votes I can get.

DannoJyd on August 2, 2012 at 5:25 PM

That chart is interesting. Food stamps went down during Reagan’s term, started climbing again with HW Bush and dropped with, I would assume, Welfare Reform (thank you Gingrich!) during Clinton’s term, and started climbing again with George Bush in charge, with an even steeper climb when Obama took the helm.

sharrukin on August 2, 2012 at 5:28 PM

I’m just here for the free stuff and tolerance.

Bmore on August 2, 2012 at 5:37 PM

…So does Nancy Pelosi think Food Stamps are the 2nd best economic stimulus after the Unemployment Check?

KOOLAID2 on August 2, 2012 at 5:39 PM

For those living in Michigan, don’t forget to vote next Tuesday. I need all of the votes I can get.

DannoJyd on August 2, 2012 at 5:25 PM

…primary…Oakland County?

KOOLAID2 on August 2, 2012 at 5:41 PM

For those living in Michigan, don’t forget to vote next Tuesday. I need all of the votes I can get.

DannoJyd on August 2, 2012 at 5:25 PM

Gary, is that you?

o_0

BlaxPac on August 2, 2012 at 5:44 PM

By the way, in case anyone is curious, illegal aliens are indeed eligible for, and receiving food stamps.
Vashta.Nerada on August 2, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Not only that, but our rulers are working directly with theirs, running a PR campaign to make sure that every mexican on the continent knows that they can get free food at U.S. Taxpayer’s expense.

LegendHasIt on August 2, 2012 at 5:44 PM

More than 40 states have lowered eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, resulting in a vast expansion of the welfare state under President Obama.

I understand Harry Reid is pushing legislation to put edible casino chips on the food stamp eligibility list.

MessesWithTexas on August 2, 2012 at 5:49 PM

I’m just here for the free stuff and tolerance.
Bmore on August 2, 2012 at 5:37 PM

I thought you were here for an argument, free stuff and tolerance is down the hall.

Sorry, couldn’t resist a little Monty Python humor :-)

uncommon sense on August 2, 2012 at 5:58 PM

Share this will all you know, until Nov. 6.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:11 PM

That sign just cracks me up. Shared on Facebook.

mbs on August 2, 2012 at 5:59 PM

So, is the new Obama slogan going to be; “free contraceptives and getting food for Julia is a SNAP!”

uncommon sense on August 2, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Sorry, couldn’t resist a little Monty Python humor :-)

uncommon sense on August 2, 2012 at 5:58 PM

Love Python, Ed had me watching old Python slits at the beginning of the week. LOL!

Bmore on August 2, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Once again the pusillanimous party will be caught flat footed. The economic bills re spending will come due in 2013-14, and food prices are forecast to rise 3 and 4% across the board. The dems and media will once again successfully blame them mean ol repubs.

I can hear it now—-”they are trying to take food from the poor.”

arnold ziffel on August 2, 2012 at 6:02 PM

There should be a weight limit for receiving food stamps, also.

If you’re already overweight, you clearly have enough food as it stands, so you don’t need the stamps.

The functionaries could hand out government exercise cards (with pictures of stick figures doing sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.) for these folks, instead.

profitsbeard on August 2, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Former IA Governor D Tom Vilsack now Obamas Ag Secretary has presided over the largest expansion of food stamps in American History and his carpet bagger wife Christie Vilsack is running a stealth campaign to unseat my Congressman Steve King R NW Ia. Do to the idiotic redistricting she has a shot with Ames added to this R district.
Christie Vilsack refuses to answer questions on Obamacare dodges reporters and constituents preferring to run attack ads and hide.
By not taking a stand she follows in the footstepd of Barrack Obama asking us to elect her based on phony promises and no record of any achievement or policy positions.

ConcealedKerry on August 2, 2012 at 6:42 PM

The food stamp debit card needs to be like the gas station bathroom keys. A 24″ placard with gov fed stamped on both sides.

People should not be made comfortable in their poverty.

tom daschle concerned on August 2, 2012 at 7:05 PM

Rudy was on Sean Hannity’s radio show this afternoon. He talked about how they wanted him to expand the welfare rolls and he said no. He made welfare offices into employment centers and turned around NYC’s employment numbers by putting people to work.

Happy Nomad on August 2, 2012 at 7:10 PM

The food stamp debit card needs to be like the gas station bathroom keys. A 24″ placard with gov fed stamped on both sides.

People should not be made comfortable in their poverty.

tom daschle concerned on August 2, 2012 at 7:05 PM

Back in the 1990s I was living in a rough part of Baltimore. Maryland had just introduced plastic cards instead of the monthly checks. The “liberty cards” allowed the welfare recipient to take money out at ATMs and also to pay for groceries. The only snag (this was 1992) was that only certain dedicated readers could be used to ring up groceries on the card. SO…. Whenever somebody with a “liberty card” went to use it for checking out, the cashier had to yell to a supervisor that they had a customer with a “liberty card.” In short they ended up announcing to anybody within earshot that the customer was on welfare.

I didn’t think it was all that bad a system. If you aren’t too proud to be on welfare, then you aren’t too proud to let an entire store in on the fact.

Happy Nomad on August 2, 2012 at 7:15 PM

In addition to encouraging people to get off food stamps, I would like to see a focus on getting some of these poor healthier food. Many of these people use their stamps to get junk food. If there weren’t health concerns, I wouldn’t care, but some of these people are going to have serious issues down the line and cost us big bucks at the ERs.

I am not saying we make sure their produce is organic and I am not suggesting any limitations for the general public. I just think that we can and should put some health-related limitations and string s on all food stamps not just certain programs.

McDuck on August 2, 2012 at 7:17 PM

I am not saying we make sure their produce is organic and I am not suggesting any limitations for the general public. I just think that we can and should put some health-related limitations and string s on all food stamps not just certain programs.

McDuck on August 2, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Seriously? You REALLY want these free loaders to live LONGER!

I want em to get a job or croke. Why should productive citizens work to feed lazy, obese, drug addicted, or alcoholic professional baby makers? Get clean, get a job or By By!

I prefer that for every Illegal crossing the border for a job and a better life we send a fat, lazy, drug addicted, professional baby maker south, where they will get skinny soon.

ConcealedKerry on August 2, 2012 at 7:24 PM

Wean the states off it by block granting it and then reducing the funding level. I’d rather the feds cut it off cold turkey, though. If the states want to do it, they can do it on their own. There is no excuse for the federal government getting into any of this.

Count to 10 on August 2, 2012 at 7:58 PM

There is no excuse for the federal government getting into any of this.

Count to 10 on August 2, 2012 at 7:58 PM

Only Won! To redistribute wealth and create a dependent voter class thus giving Rats total power until the collapse comes.

ConcealedKerry on August 2, 2012 at 8:07 PM

In addition to encouraging people to get off food stamps, I would like to see a focus on getting some of these poor healthier food. Many of these people use their stamps to get junk food. If there weren’t health concerns, I wouldn’t care, but some of these people are going to have serious issues down the line and cost us big bucks at the ERs.

I am not saying we make sure their produce is organic and I am not suggesting any limitations for the general public. I just think that we can and should put some health-related limitations and string s on all food stamps not just certain programs.

McDuck on August 2, 2012 at 7:17 PM

Its ok, rational people don’t associate ‘healthier’ with ‘organic’ anyways.

tom daschle concerned on August 2, 2012 at 8:46 PM

MA has both the SNAP and the CASH program – I almost fell out of my chair when I heard that the other day. You don’t want anyone to feel stigmatized by calling it what it is Food Stamps and Welfare do you? It makes sound so fun and easy to take money from someone else and pocket it. What’s the incentive to find work and not defraud the system with names like these? Many will.

wubu on August 3, 2012 at 12:18 AM

Everybody apply. Flood the zone, break the system. Break it even more, that is.

Richard Blaine on August 3, 2012 at 2:50 AM

BlaxPac on August 2, 2012 at 5:44 PM

How is that living in mama’s basement working out for you?

BTW, there were a lot of people working at the GOP Victory Center, the TEA Party and GOP booths at our local County Fair yesterday, and you were nowhere to be seen? I guess you are happy to sit back and watch 0bama win AGAIN, eh?

The AWE inspiring Danno Man: Doing the work that lazy Blaxpac’s REFUSE to do.

DannoJyd on August 3, 2012 at 9:39 AM

“Isn’t it ironic that the food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to please not feed the animals, because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.”

Leftards are offended at this? Well then, I’m even more schadenfreudig.

Schadenfreude on August 2, 2012 at 5:08 PM

The bureaucracy that passes out the food stamps whether federal or local have job security in mind. Like any good bureaucracy they must constantly expand their realm and keep their jobs, and to feel like they are doing something.

Dasher on August 3, 2012 at 1:33 PM