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HomenewsThree Changes to Food Stamps Will Improve Results for the Truly Needy—and...

Three Changes to Food Stamps Will Improve Results for the Truly Needy—and Save Taxpayers Billions

Due in part to a likely illegal double-digit benefit increase by the Biden administration, the food stamp program grew (and has continued to grow) in size during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if millionaires have signed up, there are still glaring eligibility gaps that go unfilled.

Three particular measures that might save taxpayers billions, safeguard benefits from fraud, and enhance results for those who are actually in need could be started by the newly Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

The agriculture bill is one of the biggest expenditure reauthorizations that the new House members must deal with while they get used to their new committee assignments. To gather priorities for the measure, Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has already convened his first listening session.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, sometimes known as food stamps, is the most expensive component of the farm bill. It is a safety net program that gives money to low-income people so they may buy food.

The food stamp program has seen significant growth since the start of the pandemic, especially since the U.S. labor force participation rate is still below pre-pandemic levels, plainly indicating that more people are not in the work market.

The program now covers 41.1 million people, a substantial increase of 4.3 million over pre-pandemic enrolment. Spending has also increased significantly. The food stamp program will cost $90 billion in 2020.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that expenses will rise by 18% this year to $159 billion, meaning that the total will continue to rise in 2022. To put the program back on track, Congress can enact the following changes:

Three Changes to Food Stamps Will Improve Results for the Truly Needy—and Save Taxpayers Billions

1. Examine the Growth in Food Stamp Benefits Under the Biden Administration:

The Biden administration unexpectedly overreached by unilaterally increasing food stamp payments by at least 23% in October 2021. The US Department of Agriculture raised food stamp expenditures by $250 billion to $300 billion over ten years with an upgrade to the Thrifty Food Plan.

Although the most recent farm bill mandated that the Thrifty Food Plan be modified by 2023 and every five years after that, all prior ones had always been cost-neutral (food stamps always include an annual inflation update).

The program’s overall cost may have increased as a result of the Biden administration evading rules and congressional authorization.

Senate and House Republicans asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the legal justifications and procedures the USDA used to reach such an unusual increase.

The GAO came to the following conclusion following its investigation: “Officials made this upgrade without important project management and quality assurance practices in place.”

Congress needs to look into this procedure and provide clear rules for changes in the future.

2. Tighten Up the Job Specifications:

The current law permits states to exempt food stamp recipients who are work-capable—adult beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 50 who are not disabled and do not have any children or other dependents in the home—from any work requirements that would otherwise be imposed on them.

These job expectations are fairly constrained even in a healthy economy: They mandate that people put in 20 hours per week of work or preparation for work (including volunteer work).

Three Changes to Food Stamps Will Improve Results for the Truly Needy—and Save Taxpayers Billions

Unless the state gets a dispensation due to either a high unemployment rate (above 10%) or a dearth of jobs in the state, the work requirements are enforced. Almost all waiver requests under the “lack of sufficient jobs” option are approved by USDA.

No children or other dependents are living in the home for adult beneficiaries between the ages of 18 and 50. Unless the state gets a waiver, the work obligations are enforced. Congress should compel labor from all beneficiaries who can work.

Almost all waiver requests under the “lack of sufficient jobs” option are approved by USDA. Work requirements had a good effect when they were widely adopted in 1996 for all users of the cash-benefit assistance program Temporary Assistance to Needy Families who were capable of working.

3. Restructuring Generalised Categorical Eligibility:

If a person is receiving benefits from another program, such as TANF, the state may enroll them in food stamps under current legislation.

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However, under an administrative choice known as broad-based category eligibility, the term “benefit” is so liberally interpreted as to encompass receiving pamphlets and 1-800 numbers.

Bypassing eligibility restrictions, including the asset requirement, is made possible by this definition (how much the applicant has in resources such as bank accounts or property). Even billionaires can now apply for the food stamp program once categorical eligibility was adopted.

To “improve program integrity and eliminate fraud, waste, and abuse,” the Trump administration proposed a rule that would have made it clear which benefits qualify someone for eligibility. The rule was never codified and never became effective. To fix the gap in the statute, Congress should alter it.

Conclusion

This Congress has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revamp a crucial safety net program. Congress may save taxpayers billions of dollars while improving conditions for millions of families by concentrating on reconsidering the Biden administration’s unilateral increase in food stamp benefits, toughening job requirements, and introducing tougher eligibility rules.

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