New Rule Will Prevent Agencies from Recruiting Food Stamp Clients
The Agriculture Department has written a new rule that will prevent government agencies from actively recruiting people for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and forbid the government from pressuring people to sign up for the benefit.
The rule is an outgrowth of a GOP-sponsored amendment in the 2014 Farm Bill that sought to prevent the government from advertising on radio and TV -- both in the U.S. and Mexico -- urging people to sign up.
The rule is the result of the 2014 Farm Bill, which included language saying government agents have to let people decide themselves whether to apply for food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. That language was included after Republicans complained that benefits were being promoted on TV and radio, and were also being promoted in Mexico under a bilateral deal that existed during the Bush administration.
"Outreach activities designed to pressure or persuade a person to apply for benefits are not allowed," USDA said about the rule. Under the proposed language, USDA and state officials that get federal funding would be allowed to inform people about how SNAP works, and dispel misunderstandings they might have about the program.
But officials wouldn't be able to pursue people who aren't interested, and wouldn't be able to promise any side benefit for people who sign up.
The law and the rule impose other restrictions that outraged Republicans.
"Furthermore, as directed by the Farm Bill, the proposed rule specifically prohibits radio, television or billboard advertising," USDA said.
Additionally, it would prohibit anyone from getting incentives for signing up people for SNAP.
"The proposed rule would also prohibit organizations receiving funds under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 from tying compensation for outreach workers to the number of people who apply for SNAP benefits as a result of their efforts, also part of the Farm Bill," USDA said.
The rule states that officials can provide information about food stamps over social media, like Twitter and Facebook, as long as the content is informational and isn't aimed at persuading or pressuring people to sign up.
This week, USDA announced that 2 million fewer people are using food stamps compared to two years ago. However, there are still 19 million more people enrolled in SNAP today than the year before the Great Recession.
This is the result of seven years of the Obama administration beating the bushes to find clients to sign up for food stamps, housing assistance, government health insurance, and other benefits. And so, the government grows in power and influence by making more and more citizens dependent on it for survival.