Views From Kansas: Raids on poor won’t pay off
Some 234,000 Kansans rely on an effective anti-hunger program.
Nationwide, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) aids tens of millions of Americans.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration wants to tighten up eligibility and make it more difficult for low-income, able-bodied adults without dependents to receive SNAP benefits, better known as “food stamps.”
Conservatives see such change as a way to put more low-income people on a path to financial independence and to save taxpayer dollars.
The proposed change that’s part of a plan to radically alter SNAP would include slashing $213.5 billion over 10 years and replacing recipients’ benefits with a box of nonperishable food items — dismissing a family’s preferences and dietary requirements, as well as the benefits of fresh food.
Proponents of changing SNAP eligibility point to Kansas, which made a comparable move they now call a success story — one that’s misleading at best.
Former Gov. Sam Brownback eagerly targeted various social service programs for cuts, to include SNAP.
In 2013, Brownback ended a waiver that exempted certain people from completing work requirements in order to obtain food stamps. He ordered recipients to attend job-training programs or work for at least 20 hours a week to qualify for more than three months of food stamps over a three-year period.
While able-bodied people who had received SNAP benefits ended up working more hours and earning higher incomes, the Kansas-based results now being touted at the federal level require closer examination.
Kansas’ removal of the waiver may have resulted in a decrease in SNAP numbers, but it wasn’t the main catalyst conservatives would claim. The state was starting to rebound from the Great Recession, and a healthier economy improved chances of employment for people of every socio-economic class.
Rather than undermining support for SNAP, the federal government should acknowledge the return on investment and bolster a program that has helped reduce poverty. Recipients also spend less on health care than poor people who don’t receive the assistance.
The crusade to ruin the nutrition safety net may appeal to folks on the far right, but as with their many shortsighted initiatives, it stands to do more harm than good.
— Originally published in The Garden City Telegram.