The Fight for Food Stamps

Will Wright, Editor in chief

Editor-in-chief Will Wright and opinions editor Jamilyn Hall wrote opposing columns about reinstated food stamp initiative. The reinstated SNAP initiative would require people who receive food stamps to be employed. Some people who remain unemployed for more than 3 months would no longer be eligible to receive food stamps. The two editors debated whether or not this is would benefit Kentucky.

Feeding low-income Americans should be a top priority

Does taking away people’s food stamps increase productivity?

Some people would like to think it does — that taking away food stamps from recipients who remain unemployed for three months, and aren’t disabled or raising minors, will motivate them to get a job and start giving back to society.

History tells a different story.

A year after cuts to food stamp benefits in 2013, the reliance on food banks soared across the country, including New York City. A report by Al Jazeera America in 2014, showed that food pantries and soup kitchens saw an 80 percent increase in demand by the end of the year.

The idea of taking away food stamps to make people become more self-sufficient is understandable, but misguided.

It is fair to say that people should contribute to the progress of society, and they should not rely on government assistance without putting anything back into the pot. Almost everyone can agree on that.

But taking away people’s food stamps, even if they have remained unemployed for more than three months, will not solve any of society’s problems.

Many of the people affected by the new rule, which includes 2,436 people in Fayette County, may lack skills necessary to get a job, like the ability to write a good résumé.

Others outside of Fayette County may not have the transportation needed to get to work, like in Bullitt County where there is no public transportation system.

If Kentuckians want to see these individuals contribute to society, the state should implement programs to help them find work.

It is argued that some unemployed people who receive food stamps are content relying on government assistance, and they would rather continue receiving free handouts than get a job.

Nevertheless, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2014 alone lifted nearly 5 million people above the poverty line, according to the program’s website.

People may also argue that the government needs to cut excessive spending, and food stamp benefits for unemployed people should be one of the first things to cut.

Governments certainly spend plenty of money that could be better spent elsewhere. The military budget, for example, could be better used for funding welfare programs or fixing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Taking away people’s food should be the last resort in spending cuts.

People must remember that taking away food stamps has not created a better society in the past, and there is little reason to think it will help this time.

Will Wright is the editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Kernel.



Food stamp recipients must meet government halfway by working

Jobs make the world go round, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps — help the low-income get on their feet financially. There is no question that those who can work should, but should Kentucky take away food stamps from those who refuse to work?

Based on our current circumstances, this answer must be yes.

Recently, the work requirement for food stamp recipients was reinstated for eight Kentucky counties.

“The federal work rule for able-bodied adults without dependents (with no children in the household) had been in effect for many years but was lifted in March 2009 because of the recession,” said Anya Weber, public information officer of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “The federal government reinstated the rule at the beginning of 2016 because of the economic recovery.”

The rule means that to continue receiving food stamps, some recipients now have to document that they spend an average of 20 hours a week working a job, doing volunteer work or taking classes. However, the rule applies to only a small percentage of people on food stamps.

Unfortunately, people take advantage of SNAP, just like any other program, by living off the government when they can clearly provide for themselves. Because of this, it is necessary for the food stamp rule to be reinstated.

“People with disabilities are not affected by this rule,” Weber said. “This affects only able-bodied adults without dependents.”

Cabinet officials told the Lexington Herald-Leader that about 17,500 able-bodied adults are affected by the rule in those eight counties, including more than 2,400 in Fayette County.

However, the food stamp rule is not taking away food from those who need it. It is simply taking action and asking for effort in return.

The purpose of food stamps is to help low-income people back onto their feet, but it is not for those who are unwilling to help themselves. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 14 percent of the American population is on the SNAP program, compared to 18.8 percent of Kentuckians.

The next step is to push for all 120 counties in Kentucky to reinstate this rule — not just Fayette, Jefferson, Hardin, Bullitt, Warren, Daviess, Henderson and McCraken.

Food Stamps are critical to low-income Kentuckians, and the reinstation of the food stamp rule reaffirms that Kentuckians have struggles. And we just need the effort to be two-sided.

So with the rule coming into effect for the eight Kentucky counties, the comparisons of food stamp recipients to lazy low-lifes can now stop. Recipients can now be known as hard-working Americans who ask for a little help. And there is no shame in that.

Jamilyn Hall is the opinions editor of the Kentucky Kernel.

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