Jordan Candler / February 14, 2018

Trump SNAPs to It With Reform Proposal

The administration wants some needed changes to the food stamp program to discourage abuse and save money.

It goes without saying that every welfare and entitlement program demands a major overhaul. Constitutional issues aside, there simply isn’t enough money flowing into the Treasury to continue the status quo. More importantly, the way in which these programs are structured is broken and unsustainable. Consequently, this makes them highly vulnerable to abuse to varying degrees, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a.k.a. food stamps.

For example, in 2011, a Michigan SNAP recipient outsmarted the system after winning a $2 million lottery. As Michigan’s Department of Human Services public relations director explained it: “Under federal guidelines, lottery winnings are counted as income when determining whether a person is eligible for food assistance if the client receives regular ongoing payments. Under federal guidelines, if the person received a lump-sum payment, the winnings are not counted.” As a result, the man, despite suddenly swimming in hundreds of thousands of dollars thanks to the lottery, proceeded to continually charge taxpayers for his grocery bills. How noble of him.

And according to a 2010 Government Accountability Office report, “The amount of SNAP benefits paid in error is substantial, totaling about $2.2 billion in 2009.” The report added, “Of the total $2.19 billion in payment errors in fiscal year 2009, $1.8 billion, or about 82 percent, were overpayments. Overpayments occur when eligible persons are provided more than they are entitled to receive or when ineligible persons are provided benefits.”

You can find even more deleterious examples here.

Fortunately, the Trump administration is recommending some much-needed changes to the program by emulating Blue Apron — a pioneer in food kit distribution. According to Fox News, “The plan, outlined in the administration’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2019, is being dubbed ‘America’s Harvest Box’ by the Department of Agriculture. It would provide 16.4 million households, about 81% of current food stamp recipients, with boxes of non-perishable food items grown by U.S. farmers in place of some of their SNAP aid. The government’s proposed program would apply to households that receive more than $90 in food stamp benefits.”

Of course, Democrats, right on cue, grumbled against “a risky scheme that threatens families’ ability to put food on the table,” as Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Stacy Dean fretted. On the contrary, the changes wouldn’t be taking anything away from Americans; instead, it would streamline the process while disincentivizing those who don’t need it from abusing the system. The White House envisions 10-year savings of $129.2 billion if these changes are implemented.

The only problem is that food stamp reform is part of Trump’s budget proposal, and, like any other past president, the odds are stacked highly against his proposal getting much — if any — traction in Congress. However, it gives lawmakers a solid idea to chase on their own via an independent bill. Let’s hope they bite.

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