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Why Are Welfare Rolls Flat, While the Food Stamp Program Grows Rapidly?
Stateline.org ^ | by Pamela M. Prah, Staff Writer

Posted on 07/03/2012 10:59:17 AM PDT by DeaconBenjamin

The number of people receiving food stamps hit a record high during the recent recession and remains high. But that has not been the case for welfare. In some states, welfare participation rates have actually decreased over the past few years.

Equally surprising is the fact that less than one-third of the federal and state money currently spent on welfare is actually given to people as cash assistance. The rest is spent on specialized services such as child care, child welfare and teen pregnancy counseling, but the government really doesn’t know how these funds are used and who benefits.

“We’ve been particularly concerned about a small, but possibly growing portion of families that were eligible for [welfare benefits] … and did not receive cash benefits,” Kay Brown, director of income security for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the watchdog organization of Congress, told a U.S. Senate panel earlier this summer.

It’s clear that the recession tested the nation’s safety net in unprecedented ways, but states, researchers and policymakers in Washington, D.C., are still trying to figure out the true impact and what changes, if any, should be made to improve the patchwork of programs designed to help the poor and unemployed weather bad times. Six States Saw Welfare Drop

Today, the national welfare caseload remains lower than it was in 2005, before the recession, according to an Urban Institute study. Compare that to the food stamp rolls: 20 million more Americans are now getting food stamps than before the recession, bringing the total to a record 46 million.

Welfare caseloads actually have been going down in six states. The biggest drop was in Rhode Island, which saw a 29 percent decline, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a liberal think tank. That is striking, since Rhode Island’s peak unemployment rate hit 12.7 percent, the third highest in the nation. The reason for the sharp drop in welfare in Rhode Island is that the state both shortened its time limit for receiving benefits and began cutting off entire families, rather than just the parents, when the time limit was reached, the group says.

The other states that experienced decreases in their welfare rolls during the recession were Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas, CBPP data show. These states all saw double-digit increases in food stamp participation during that time.

Advocates say that food stamps worked as they were supposed to during the recession: their use grew substantially. The fact that welfare caseloads dropped at all convinced some scholars that the welfare system is ill-designed for hard economic times. “[Welfare] is the outlier in its lack of responsiveness,” says LaDonna Pavetti, who specializes in poverty and welfare for CBPP. Programs Radically Different In Structure

The most important answer to the question of why national welfare rolls didn’t increase with food stamps is that the program is a now a block grant to the states with a fixed amount of money set aside. When Congress overhauled welfare in 1996, it changed the system from an entitlement program guaranteeing coverage for everyone who was eligible to a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. TANF hands out lump-sum payments for welfare that states can use as they wish. The amount has stayed level since 1996, at about $16.5 billion a year.

Food stamps, however, are open-ended. If individuals qualify for the program, they get the benefit, and as a result, costs have soared. The federal government, for example, spent nearly $76 billion on food stamps in 2011, more than double the $33 billion spent before the recession.

The issue of work is handled very differently among the safety net programs. The welfare program requires that 50 percent of a state’s families be involved in work activities. In recent years Congress tightened up those requirements by narrowing the kinds of activities that can count as work. Under the food stamp program, most adults have to register for work, accept suitable employment, and take part in an employment and training program to which they are referred by the food stamp office.

Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Sacramento, says the TANF work rules are too rigid. “A low-income parent was held to the same work rules during the worst economic downturn of our lifetimes as they were when unemployment was single digit,” she says.

She also worries about TANF’s lifetime limits, which food stamps do not have. In most states, the lifetime limit for welfare is five years, but several states have shortened it. California and Michigan reduced their welfare time limits to four years. Arizona reduced its limit to two years. GOP Wants Lessons of Welfare Applied to Food Stamps

Many Republicans don’t see welfare as broken, but instead as a model, especially for the food stamp program.

During recent debate on a farm bill on Capitol Hill, the Senate rejected a measure from Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky that would have capped food stamp funding at $45 billion a year and replaced the program with block grants to the states. “It’s out of control. It’s not about helping those in need,” Paul said. “It’s about being wise with the taxpayer dollars and not giving people $20,000 a year in food stamps.”

The House Republican budget blueprint released earlier this year by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin likewise would have turned the food stamp program into a block grant and required recipients to work or enroll in job training. Democrats and liberal groups say proposals like these would increase hunger, destroy jobs and slow the economic recovery in the interest of saving money.

Ron Haskins, co-director of the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families, estimates that between states and the federal government, an estimated $1 trillion was spent in 2011 on the 10 largest poverty programs, including welfare and food stamps.

“The idea that we’re not spending enough money is probably incorrect,” Haskin told a congressional panel last month. “We could be spending it poorly. It might not be focused on the poor. Some of the programs might be unsuccessful, but we’re spending a lot of money, about $13,000 per poor person,” says Haskins, who worked on Capitol Hill and was involved in rewriting the welfare rules in the 1990s.

Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, says the focus should be more on food stamps and other programs and less on TANF, because that’s where the money is spent and continues to be spent.

Welfare is not a big budget item for most states, taking up less than 2 percent of all state spending, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). But a growing concern is that no one really knows how the state and federal TANF money is being spent. GAO figures that 71 percent of the total spent in 2011 was for purposes other than cash assistance.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: foodstamps; gao; welfare

1 posted on 07/03/2012 10:59:22 AM PDT by DeaconBenjamin
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To: DeaconBenjamin

Goldman Sachs


2 posted on 07/03/2012 11:13:06 AM PDT by ▀udda▀udd (>> F U B O << "What the hell kind of country is this if I can only hate a man if he's white?")
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To: DeaconBenjamin

Because the asset tests were removed -— 2008 Farm Act. This was pre-Obama


3 posted on 07/03/2012 11:16:14 AM PDT by steve86 (Acerbic by nature not nurture TM)
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To: DeaconBenjamin

because it’s easier to qualify for food stamps.

My brother ran into a ruff patch a while back and applied for both but only got food stamps.


4 posted on 07/03/2012 11:19:42 AM PDT by TexasFreeper2009 (Obama lied .. the economy died.)
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To: steve86
"Because the asset tests were removed -— 2008 Farm Act. This was pre-Obama"

The asset tests need to be restored. If people with significant illiquid assets need help, structure it as a loan.

5 posted on 07/03/2012 11:26:31 AM PDT by DannyTN
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To: DannyTN

I know two young families who qualify, but won’t apply.


6 posted on 07/03/2012 11:44:03 AM PDT by Oldexpat
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To: DannyTN
The asset tests need to be restored.

Keep in mind that the newly enrolled SNAP beneficiaries won't necessarily be voting for Obama. Most probably don't see it as a presidential-type issue at all. But take away their new benefits and you will instantly have 20,000,000 or so new Democrat votes (ones who wouldn't have voted previously or who were wishy-washy on party affiliation).

7 posted on 07/03/2012 11:49:28 AM PDT by steve86 (Acerbic by nature not nurture TM)
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To: DeaconBenjamin

This is an easy one, because most welfare is administered by IRS now........................


8 posted on 07/03/2012 12:06:28 PM PDT by PeterPrinciple ( (Lord, save me from some conservatives, they don't understand history any better than liberals.))
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To: DeaconBenjamin

USDA suggests food stamp parties, games to increase participation

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2900224/posts

Senate Passed Farm Bill

Many inside and outside of Congress had predicted that legislation so expensive and so complicated would have little chance of advancing in an election year.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called it “one of the finest moments in the Senate in recent times in terms of how you pass a bill.”

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/2898427/posts


9 posted on 07/03/2012 12:10:10 PM PDT by TurboZamboni (Looting the future to bribe the present)
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To: TurboZamboni

“USDA suggests food stamp parties, games to increase participation”

Every American citizen should apply for food stamps, which would, in essence, shut them down.


10 posted on 07/03/2012 12:41:54 PM PDT by spel_grammer_an_punct_polise (I wanna start a Seniors' Motor Scooter Gang. Wanna join?)
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To: TurboZamboni; steve86

The food stamp program is not about poor people. It is welfare for farmers and big ag businesses, such as Archer Daniel Midland. Just try to curtail any program that benefits farmers and see the “conservative” Republicans from farm states fight tooth and nail to keep the money flowing.

Few people want government spending curtailed. If they did, we would already have smaller government that spent less. Americans vote these politicians in office in order to have their place at the trough preserved.


11 posted on 07/03/2012 7:14:30 PM PDT by Pining_4_TX ( The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else. ~)
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To: spel_grammer_an_punct_polise

Good idea. I’m about ready to throw in the towel anyway. Why should anybody work these days? It doesn’t pay.


12 posted on 07/03/2012 7:16:00 PM PDT by Pining_4_TX ( The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else. ~)
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To: DeaconBenjamin
Why Are Welfare Rolls Flat, While the Food Stamp Program Grows Rapidly?

Partly? Pride.

People see food stamps as a temporary stop gap. Welfare though tends to strike people as giving up.

Most have not give up.

13 posted on 07/03/2012 7:23:49 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (Dragons don't have friends. The nearest they can get to the idea is an enemy who is still alive.)
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To: Pining_4_TX

you speak truth.

Chucky Grassley comes to mind.

Grassley attempts to rationalize why he personally collects nearly $1 million in taxpayer funded farm subsidies.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88V5ZsXfc9k


14 posted on 07/03/2012 7:54:22 PM PDT by TurboZamboni (Looting the future to bribe the present)
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To: TurboZamboni

That made me ill, as did the other videos about farm subsidies. This is why government spending will not stop. Too many people have their snouts in the trough. Politicians are merely doing the will of the people.


15 posted on 07/04/2012 10:11:26 PM PDT by Pining_4_TX ( The state is the great fiction by which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else. ~)
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