Several proposed restrictions on the use of electronic benefit transfer cards have been dropped from proposed legislation so that it will conform with federal law, prompting complaints from some senators.
As originally filed, SB244 declared that the EBT cards, used as a debit card to provide welfare payments and food stamps, could not be used in businesses primarily selling tobacco products, tattoos or “psychic services.” Those references were deleted in an amendment presented to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee last week at the urging of state Department of Human Services officials.
Remaining are provisions covering liquor stores, “adult cabarets” and “casinos or gaming establishments.”
Nathalie Essex, assistant general counsel for the Department of Human Services, told the committee that a law enacted by Congress last year specifically authorizes states to impose the remaining restrictions, but declares states going beyond the authorization can lose federal funds. Legislative staff says the original version would “jeopardize” almost $10 million in federal money now sent to the state.
David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, worries that too many people are on food stamps, and they are becoming dependent on government handouts, reports The Tennessean. His solution, posted on his personal Facebook page, is to follow the advice of the National Park Service: “Do not feed the animals.”
“Their stated reason for the policy is because the animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves,” Fowler wrote in the post. “This ends today’s lesson.”
Similar advice has been used by conservative politicians and pundits to criticize the federal food stamp program, known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have proposed reducing funding for the program, which serves about 46 million Americans.
Fowler’s remarks angered Jennifer Bailey, an outreach specialist at Community Food Advocates in Nashville, a nonprofit that helps people get food stamps and works on local problems with hunger.
She said the “don’t feed the animals” comparison dehumanizes food stamp recipients.
“It removes the human face of hunger,” she said. “No human being is without dignity. That is something that should be remembered.”
…(Fowler) He said that he believes all people should be treated with dignity and that all people are made in God’s image.
“The obvious point of the post is that government can foster and create dependence on government,” he said. “Government creating human dependence on government demeans human dignity and is antithetical to human freedom government is intended to protect.”
He said he would be more careful about future Facebook posts.
News release from Rep. Scott DesJarlais
WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Scott DesJarlais (TN-04) announced that “Stop Rewarding States for Recruiting Additional Food Stamp Recipients” was the winner of last week’s YouCut program. The congressman is now in the process of drafting legislation that will prevent the federal government from issuing bonuses to states for signing up additional food stamp recipients.
Currently, the Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp program) pays state governments bonuses – with taxpayer dollars – for recruiting additional people to sign up for food stamps. Each year, states with the highest percentage of eligible participants enroll in the program and split $12 million in bonus funds. Additionally, the department awards another $6 million in bonus money to states that are the fastest at signing up new program applicants.
Eliminating this program will at least to $180 million dollars over ten years.
“The fact that our government rewards states for recruiting individuals to be on food stamps is not just wasteful, it is ridiculous,” said Representative Scott DesJarlais. “Why does the federal government need to incentivize states to spend taxpayer dollars with more taxpayer dollars? Government at all levels should strive to spend funds as efficiently as possible without the need for additional taxpayer funded bonuses.”
“I want to thank my constituents for taking time to participate in the YouCut program. I’m of the firm belief that the solutions to our nation’s problems will be uncovered by directly involving the American people in the legislative process. Programs like YouCut give us another way to listen to the individuals that we represent so that we can bring their voices to Washington,” noted DesJarlais. Background:
· As of August, 2011, nearly 46 million Americans were on food stamps, or 15 percent of the population.
· Benefit costs were over $71 billion between September of 2010 and August of 2011.
· Program participation has grown steadily since the economic downturn began, and increased by 8 percent in 2011.
Individuals can track the progress of this legislation on the YouCut Web site: http://majorityleader.gov/YouCut/
Note: This was approved as a cutting option over a U.S. Forest Service program said to include Smokey the Bear, Most recent prior post HERE.
From Action Andy Sher: According to the state Department of Human Services, 968 of the state’s 39,012 workers are on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal government’s food stamp program. That amounts to 2.48 percent of all state general government workers.
The food stamp program is designed to help low-income families buy food they otherwise could not afford.
Top Tennessee State Employees Association leaders, who obtained the figures from an Open Records Act request, say they are “shocked” by the number.
In a Sept. 28 letter, TSEA President Philip Morson and the employee group’s executive director, Robert O’Connell, urged Gov. Bill Haslam to take action.
“We can never let it be said that, in Tennessee, we don’t pay our state employees enough to put bread on the table,” the letter said.
Haslam spokesman David Smith said via email that “there are a number of variables for Tennesseans’ participation” in the food stamps program.
“The governor and administration continue to be focused on hiring and retaining the best and brightest to work in state government, and certainly pay is a piece of that puzzle,” he said.
Nearly 1,000 Tennessee state employees have such low salaries that they must rely on government assistance to put food on their tables, according to WTVF-TV. Robert O’Connell with the Tennessee State Employee Association said they were shocked when they discovered the number of state workers on food stamps. “We were floored by the number of people,” said O’Connell. “I don’t think Tennesseans are going to be proud that we are paying this large group not enough to feed their families.”
The TSEA fired off a letter to Governor Bill Haslam demanding the state pay more. The group believes part of the problem is that state salaries haven’t kept up with the cost of living. After it made a public records request, the state employee association learned 964 state workers were on food stamps.
The Department of Environment and Conservation had 129 employees on food stamps. The Department of Corrections had 191 employees on public aid, and the Department of Human Services had 228 workers on welfare.
Ironically, DHS which gives out food stamps, had the largest number of workers on the program,,,,. According to the TSEA, some state workers make as little as $14,000 a year. The medians salary for a state employee is $31,000 a year.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A wider variety of food retailers is accepting federal food stamps as a growing number of people are accepted into the program.
In Nashville, 20 percent of the population receives benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to The Tennessean (http://bit.ly/qP9R19 ).
Statistics from the Tennessee Department of Human Services show that during the last three years, the number of people receiving food stamps statewide increased 36 percent to 1,282,507.
Mary Crimmins, who manages three weekly farmers markets, said food stamp recipients are beginning to shop there since the markets started accepting the payment earlier this month. Crimmins said that allows people receiving food stamps to buy fresh local produce that is in season.