Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Tennessee to reinstate work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients, By Anita Wadhwani, September 18, 2017, The Tennessean: “Tennessee will reinstate work requirements for food stamp recipients a decade after they were eased during the height of the economic recession, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Monday…”
  • No power means no food stamps for Miami’s neediest in Hurricane Irma’s wake, By Alex Harris, September 15, 2017, Miami Herald: “Friday morning, Michael Mighty took a bus to 58th Street for a free plate of Curry Gold and peas and rice at one of his favorite Jamaican restaurants. ‘I told them to make it as hot as possible,’ he said. ‘I’m tired of eating sandwiches.’ It might be his only meal for the day. Mighty, 58, still doesn’t have power in his Overtown apartment, and for most of this week, neither did the grocery stores he relied on. Without power, he couldn’t use his food stamps, which come on a debit card-style system these days…”
  • Walmart to allow food stamp users to buy groceries online, By Leada Gore, September 20, 2017, AL.com: “Walmart is rolling out a pilot program that will allow food stamp recipients to order groceries online and pick them up at stores. The nation’s largest retailer is currently offering online ordering for food stamp and other EBT users at one store in the Houston market and four more in Boise, Idaho. More markets will be added throughout 2017, Walmart said in a statement…”

SNAP Benefits and Health

What happens when a family runs out of food stamps, By Emily Badger, December 9, 2015, Washington Post: “Toward the end of every month, hospitals in California see a curious uptick in admissions for hypoglycemia, the kind of low blood sugar that can affect diabetics. The pattern, detected in a recent study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, is almost entirely driven by low-income patients. The non-poor don’t show much change in admissions at all.  The researchers suspect this trend may point to an underlying challenge for the poor: Food stamps, given out in a lump sum at the start of each month,run out for many families before they reach the end of it. Grocery stores in poor neighborhoods often report a rise in business when food stamps are electronically debited, and hospitals may see the result when they run out…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Food stamps could be delayed if Congress doesn’t end threat of shutdown, Jeff Merkley says, By Jeff Mapes, September 22, 2015, The Oregonian: “Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Tuesday that federal food assistance to the needy could be delayed unless Congress quickly ends the threat of a government shutdown on Oct. 1. The two Democratic senators said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is ordering states to hold off for now on reloading debit cards used by recipients in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

$25 ATM limit for Kansas welfare recipients may violate federal law, By Lindsay Wise and Dion Lefler, May 16, 2015, Wichita Eagle: “A first-of-its-kind provision that prevents welfare recipients in Kansas from withdrawing more than $25 a day from an ATM might violate federal law – and could jeopardize the state’s federal funding if not amended. The Social Security Act requires states to ensure that recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, ‘have adequate access to their cash assistance’ and can withdraw money ‘with minimal fees or charges.’  At stake is about $102 million in TANF block grant money that Kansas receives every year from the federal government.  The ATM limit was added as an amendment to a welfare overhaul bill signed in April by Gov. Sam Brownback…”

States and Welfare Reform

  • States take aim at social welfare programs, By Tierney Sneed, April 9, 2015, US News: “State lawmakers attracted national attention this week for seeking to ban the use of welfare funds on lingerie, fortune tellers or even cookies, proposals that reflect a renewed focus on scrutinizing the social safety net as the country rebounds from the Great Recession.  A Missouri bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Rick Brattin would outlaw the use of welfare funds to purchase chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood and steak. Kansas legislation, which has passed both chambers and is on its way to Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk, is a more comprehensive overhaul of how the state administers its benefits.  Critics say such measures stigmatize the poor and that Republicans, who are often behind the efforts, are simply playing politics in limiting assistance programs – especially since the money is provided by the federal government rather than the state. Proponents point out that states still share the administrative costs and have an interest in pursuing programs that are effective in getting people back to work, regardless of how they’re funded​…”
  • Why is Kansas pursuing tougher welfare rules?, By Amanda Paulson, April 7, 2015, Christian Science Monitor: “Starting in July, welfare recipients in Kansas won’t be able to use government aid to go to a tattoo parlor, nail salon, movie theater, or swimming pool, among other spots, assuming Gov. Sam Brownback signs the measure passed by the state legislature.  The maximum they can withdraw from an ATM will also be limited, to $25 a day. They won’t be able to spend their benefits out of state, and the maximum amount of time they can receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) over the course of a lifetime will be reduced from 48 to 36 months.  States have great discretion with regard to the rules they can put in place for TANF block grants, and a number of states have sought to limit in various ways how recipients can use those funds. But the bill in Kansas, as well as measures being debated in Missouri that would severely curb eligibility and impose restrictions on how recipients can use their aid, appear to take the constraints to a new level. They also don’t seem to be driven primarily by fiscal reasons, but rather by ideological ones, observers say…”

Welfare Reform – Kansas

Bill tightening restrictions on welfare recipients advances in Kansas Senate, By Bryan Lowry, April 2, 2015, Wichita Eagle: “The Kansas Senate is moving forward with a bill that limits people to 36 months of welfare benefits, bans repeat drug offenders from food assistance for life and restricts the amount recipients can withdraw from an ATM using a welfare benefits card.  Senators passed HB 2258 by voice vote Wednesday after a heated debate that lasted most of the day. The bill will be up for a final vote Thursday and is expected to pass easily. The bill makes changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, commonly called welfare, and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps. The programs are federally funded but administered by the states…”

SNAP EBT Cards – Massachusetts

US orders Mass. to fix food stamp procedures, By Megan Woolhouse, December 8, 2014, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts last year became one of the first states to require food stamp cards to include photos of recipients, but the new program has created such confusion that some low-income families are unable to buy groceries and the federal government is demanding that the state quickly fix the problem. The cards, known as EBTs, an acronym for Electronic Benefit Transfer, act like debit cards and are issued to heads of households. But some store cashiers have turned away the recipients’ family members or others in the household — who can legally use the benefits — because they do not match the photos. Such practices violate federal rules, which require retailers to treat food stamp recipients like any other customer…”

SNAP and EBT Cards

Will new federal regs force bodega owners to shun food stamps?, By Alfred Lubrano, October 14, 2014, Philadelphia Inquirer: “A little-noticed change in federal law may hurt small neighborhood grocery stores and their low-income customers who use food stamps. In 2004, food stamps went digital, switching from paper coupons to electronic cards. In large supermarkets, such Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards are swiped at checkout terminals along with credit and debit cards. But in around 118,000 bodegas, corner stores, and mom-and-pop markets nationwide, EBT cards have been used in specific EBT machines provided to stores free in a federal-state partnership, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food-stamp program, known as SNAP. Now, all that is changing. The states and the federal government will no longer foot the bill for EBT machines, a measure that could save an estimated $154 million over 10 years, according to federal officials…”

Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards and Fraud – Maine

  • A Maine family’s struggle to beat back welfare fraud allegations, By Luisa Deprez and Sandy Butler, May 2, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “There has been much discussion recently about fraud among Maine residents receiving government assistance. The LePage administration claims fraud is rampant, yet Maine’s attorney general notes that she has prosecuted only 37 Department of Health and Human Services cases in the last three years. Advocates for the poor also disagree, noting that claims of fraud are ill defined and greatly overblown…”
  • Despite federal warnings, program to put photos on EBT cards begins in Bangor, By Mario Moretto, April 28, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “A pilot program intended to strengthen the integrity of Maine’s welfare programs kicked off Monday in Bangor, where some recipients of public assistance funds traded in benefit cards for new ones featuring photo identification. The new project adds a photo ID to electronic benefits transfer cards, which are used like debit cards by welfare recipients. The cards carry funds that can be used to buy food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and cash benefits through a program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families…”

Welfare Reform – Maine, Alabama

  • Heavily debated welfare reforms go nowhere in Maine House, By Steve Mistler, April 4, 2014, Portland Press Herald: “Democrats in the House of Representatives rejected three welfare reform proposals by Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday while giving preliminary approval to a significantly altered version of a fourth. Mostly along party lines, the Democrat-controlled House voted 83-61 to approve a proposal to add smoke shops to a current law that prohibits electronic benefit transfer card transactions at certain locations, including liquor stores and casinos. The bill replaces the governor’s proposal to ban EBT card use for bail, alcohol, lottery tickets or tobacco products. Three other proposals, all related to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which distributes cash benefits to about 8,000 Maine families, were rejected in partly-line votes…”
  • Four welfare bills signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, By Mike Cason, April 10, 2014, Huntsville Times: “Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a bill requiring people applying for cash welfare benefits to first apply for three jobs before becoming eligible. The governor signed SB 115 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, on Wednesday. ‘People are willing to help those in need, but they also expect those that are seeking taxpayer assistance to attempt to help themselves first,’ Orr said. SB 115 applies to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which provides monthly cash benefits to low-income families with children. As of December 2013, about 19,000 households in Alabama were receiving TANF. The average monthly benefit was $191…”

Welfare Reform – Louisiana, Maine

  • Louisiana bans welfare benefits usage at lingerie shops, jewelry stores, tattoo parlors, By Renita D. Young, March 21, 2014, New Orleans Times-Picayune: “State welfare officials are tightening the reins on how residents can use cash benefits they receive from assistance programs. Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) issued an emergency rule Thursday (March 20) that would eventually ban the use of welfare benefits at jewelry stores, lingerie shops and other establishments that don’t allow customers under 18 years of age…”
  • LePage pushes new legislation to control, curb welfare cash, By Chris Williams, March 23, 2014, Bangor Daily News: “As promised earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage filed four bills Friday aimed at tightening restrictions on the use of electronic benefit cards used by welfare recipients. Democrats said certain elements of the governor’s proposals raise red flags; they urged him to instead focus his administration’s efforts on enforcement of current welfare fraud crimes…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Families feel the pangs of SNAP cuts, By Lolly Bowean, Juan Perez Jr. and Vikki Ortiz Healy, November 10, 2013, Chicago Tribune: “It wasn’t until years after Amy Jezler lost her job at the Salvation Army and her family lost their south suburban home to foreclosure that money got so tight she had to resort to signing up for food stamps. And even then, it was difficult to visit the Family Community Resource Center in Blue Island and ask for help, Jezler said. ‘I was always taught to do it on your own,’ the Park Forest resident said. ‘I was getting to the point where it was harder and harder. (I had) to make the decision: Do I pay bills this month, or do I eat?’ For a year and a half, Jezler has collected $193 a month from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to help feed her husband, who has been in and out of work, and her 10-year-old daughter, she said. But on Thursday, she learned her food stamp benefits had been slashed by $30…”
  • Should Oregon pay $1.5 million to put photos on food stamps, welfare cards? Lawmakers consider fraud reduction options, By Yuxing Zheng, November 14, 2013, The Oregonian: “It would cost Oregon at least $1.5 million in the first year and about $930,000 annually after that to put photographs of cardholders on the Oregon Trail cards used by food stamps and welfare recipients. That’s the estimate recently heard by lawmakers on an interim legislative work group considering methods of reducing public assistance fraud. A May audit from the Secretary of State’s office found that hundreds of Oregonians who were deceased, incarcerated, or won the lottery benefited from one of three public assistance programs intended for low-income individuals…”

Electronic Benefits Payment System – North Carolina

NC’s online food assistance program produces long waits, frustration, By Thomas Goldsmith and Annalise Frank, August 5, 2013, News & Observer: “The state’s new electronic benefits payment system, aimed at greater efficiency, instead has Wake County food aid recipients waiting as long as eight or nine weeks for funds to arrive to put food on their tables. Longtime Southeast Raleigh activist Octavia Rainey told Wake County commissioners Monday that the problems have caused dozens of people to show up at her house to ask for help in getting food from churches, food banks and other sources. Known as NC FAST, the $48.2 million system was supposed to provide a new way to pay into recipients’ electronic bank accounts, but has been beset in Wake by repeated glitches and slowdowns…”

EBT Card Balances – Massachusetts

Massachusetts cracking down on individuals saving up high levels of welfare or food stamp benefits, By Shira Schoenberg, July 10, 2013, The Republican: “The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance is cracking down on individuals who have saved up high levels of welfare or food stamp benefits. The review by the department is designed to protect benefits for those who need them most, by eliminating a small number of cases in which the benefits are not immediately needed…”

Welfare Reform – Massachusetts

Massachusetts Senate leaders take wraps off bill to overhaul welfare, By Dan Ring, June 17, 2013, The Republican: “Senate President Therese Murray and other Senate leaders Monday unveiled a bill to overhaul welfare in Massachusetts, including requiring photo identifications on electronic benefit transfer cards and creation of a program to connect able-bodied applicants with jobs before they receive benefits. Murray said the welfare system is stagnant and the Senate wants to shake it up, while helping recipients…”

TANF Programs – Kansas, Alabama

  • Rules tighten on TANF recipients, By Scott Rothschild, May 1, 2013, Lawrence Journal-World: “Low-income mothers in Kansas will have to participate in a work program sooner after giving birth to receive cash assistance, according to new rules by the Kansas Department for Children and Families. The changes will ‘bring expectations more in line with what the expectations are in the private sector, since that is what an employee can expect to receive from an employer,’ said Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for DCF. The changes deal with a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families…”
  • Committee approves welfare bills to drug test some recipients, prohibit purchases of alcohol, tattoos and tobacco, By Kim Chandler, May 2, 2013, Birmingham News: “The House State Government Committee today approved a bill to drug test welfare recipients with a history of drug offenses. The committee also approved another bill to prohibit people from using welfare benefits to buy booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets or advice on the psychic hotline. Both bills now move to the floor of the House of Representatives. The bill by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would prohibit recipients from using benefits to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets and from using those benefits in bars, casinos, tattoo facilities, psychic parlors or strip clubs…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Rhode Island

Food stamps put Rhode Island town on monthly boom-and-bust cycle, By Eli Saslow, March 16, 2013, Washington Post: “The economy of Woonsocket was about to stir to life. Delivery trucks were moving down river roads, and stores were extending their hours. The bus company was warning riders to anticipate ‘heavy traffic.’ A community bank, soon to experience a surge in deposits, was rolling a message across its electronic marquee on the night of Feb. 28: ‘Happy shopping! Enjoy the 1st.’ In the heart of downtown, Miguel Pichardo, 53, watched three trucks jockey for position at the loading dock of his family-run International Meat Market. For most of the month, his business operated as a humble milk-and-eggs corner store, but now 3,000 pounds of product were scheduled for delivery in the next few hours. He wiped the front counter and smoothed the edges of a sign posted near his register. ‘Yes! We take Food Stamps, SNAP, EBT!’ ‘Today, we fill the store up with everything,’ he said. ‘Tomorrow, we sell it all.’ At precisely one second after midnight, on March 1, Woonsocket would experience its monthly financial windfall — nearly $2 million from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Food stamps and the politics of poverty, By Shereen Marisol Meraji, October 30, 2012, Marketplace: “Andrea Waterstreet is 44, single and doesn’t have children. She grew up in middle class suburbia and worked for 25 years, mostly as a waitress. But when she was diagnosed with a chronic illness and became too sick to work, she quit her job. That was in 2008. ‘I’ve been working since I was 14 or 15,’ says Waterstreet. ‘And this is something I never thought would happen.’ She covered her bills using unemployment benefits until they ran out in 2009. Waterstreet says she lives simply in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco with roommates, doesn’t have a car and has a pay-as-you-go cell phone. ‘It’s been a couple of years of living off nothing at all,’ she says. Nothing but a few hundred dollars from her parents for rent. And food stamps, though she doesn’t use that term…”

Limits on Electronic Benefit Transactions

New welfare restrictions target booze, tattoos, By Shannon Young (AP), July 18, 2012, Boston Globe: “Taking aim at what they call an abuse of the taxpayers’ money, a growing number of states are blocking welfare recipients from spending their benefits on booze, cigarettes, lottery tickets, casino gambling, tattoos and strippers. ‘If you’re not abusing the program, then you should really have no problem with these reforms,’ said state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, a Republican pushing for restrictions in Massachusetts. While the crackdown has strong populist appeal in Democratic and GOP states alike in this era of tight budgets and tea party demands for fiscal discipline, advocates for the poor argue that the restrictions are based on stereotypes about people on welfare, and they say the notion of any widespread abuse is a myth. Most people on public assistance, they contend, are single mothers struggling just to get by…”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • Va. to stagger food-stamp payouts to ease crowding, By Jennifer Jiggetts, July 2, 2012, Virginian-Pilot: “The first of every month, about 440,000 households in the state get their monthly allotment of food stamps – now known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits – and many promptly head to their local grocery stores. Checkout lines can be much longer. Items such as Cheerios and broccoli can disappear from shelves. Some stores bring in extra staff. Only nine states do business this way. Now, that’s about to change in Virginia, as the state Department of Social Services will begin to alter the way it issues SNAP benefits in September. By October the benefits will be dispersed on the 1st, 4th, 7th and 9th of the month, based on the last digit of the recipient’s case number…”
  • Funds at risk: Once known as food stamps, SNAP provides food to poor, By Melissa Miller, July 1, 2012, Southeast Missourian: “She used to work two jobs and made good money. Now a health condition keeps her from working full-time. So a 32-year-old Cape Girardeau single mom depends on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, to help her take care of her 3-year-old son. The $342 a month the woman, who asked not to be named, receives from the SNAP program could be cut as part of a plan to save taxpayer dollars and reduce fraud under the 2012 Farm Bill approved in June by the U.S. Senate. The bill, known as the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, provides subsidies to farmers and funds the USDA’s nutrition assistance programs for low-income Americans…”