Thousands of Georgia residents who depend on food stamps are losing their benefits because they have failed to meet the state’s new requirements that force the able-bodied without children to find jobs.
These new work requirements have been rolled out in phases for the past year. The latest round impacted approximately 12,000 people in 21 counties.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported more than half of them, or 7,251, were dropped from the food stamp program because they were not working.
The program will eventually be expanded to all of Georgia’s 159 counties, so thousands more people are going to either have to find some kind or work or lose their benefits.
“The greater good is people being employed, being productive and contributing to the state,” Bobby Cagle, director of the state Department of Family and Children Services, said.
A blog post on the website of the liberal group Better Georgia brands the work-for-food stamps program as nothing more than “thinly veiled greed and racism,” which “promises to cause considerable upset in the lives of thousands of Georgians who are already struggling to survive.”
“They fail to recognize that the majority of people classified as “able-bodied” are in fact not able to work,” the blog’s author, Shelby Steuart, added. “Many people who rely on food stamps are unable to keep sustainable employment because of issues including low levels of education, mental health issues, undiagnosed medical problems and criminal records.”
State Rep. Greg Morris (R) said the fact that thousands of people have lost their benefits only showed the magnitude of the problem of welfare fraud in Georgia. He said the new mandate is working.
“This is about protecting taxpayer dollars from abuse, and taking people off the cycle of dependency,” Morris said.
However, Benita Dodd, vice president of the conservative Georgia Public Policy Foundation, wrote that saving taxpayer dollars was not the program’s ultimate goal.
“The goal must be to focus aid on those who truly need help and restore the dignity of work to able-bodied adults,” Dodd wrote. “Reducing dependency and promoting economic opportunity help end the cycle of poverty, reinforce the temporary nature of assistance and encourage personal responsibility.”
If President Trump has his way, he will replicate what Georgia is doing on a national scale.
The White House’s proposed federal budget would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by approximately 25 percent, or more than $190 million, over the next 10 years. It also calls for requiring able-bodied adults to work.
“We must reform our welfare system so that it does not discourage able-bodied adults from working, which takes away scarce resources from those in real need. Work must be the center of our social policy,” the president wrote in his letter to Congress accompanying his proposed budget.
Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, warned that Trump’s plans for food stamps would put “America on Starvation.”
“Parents will work just as hard at unforgiving jobs and see less food on the table for their families. Children will become sicker without the proper nutrition, ending up in hospitals or on the rolls of what social services remain,” Chilton wrote in an op-ed published by The Hill. “Some children will die.”
The average SNAP household receives $252 per month in benefits, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate. Under Trump’s proposal that would drop to $173 a month.
That would all be money well saved, in the opinion of Robert Rector, a welfare reform expert at the Heritage Foundation.
Rector told Lifezette that SNAP food stamp dollars going from Washington to the states are nothing more than “Chinese funeral money, they just burn it.”
However, GlobalData retail managing director Neil Saunders told CNBC the reality is that SNAP dollars go into retailers’ cash registers.
“Anything that can damage shoppers’ spending power can have a serious impact on the amount stores take in,” Saunders said. “Food stamps do have a big effect on the amount they can spend and on the frequency of their trips to stores.”
A 2010 USDA study found that every $1 spent on SNAP generated $1.79 for the nation’s economy.
CNBC also reported food retail industry analyst Chuck Grom warned his clients the Trump SNAP cuts could hurt big-box stores like Walmart, Target, Dollar General, and Family Dollar.
“The probability of [Trump’s budget] passing in its current form remains low,” Grom warned in his note to clients, “but it should be monitored, particularly for the discounters, grocers, and dollar stores — all of which have called out last year’s big reduction as a drag on sales.”