When I first heard this story yesterday I wanted to get something out as quickly as possible and did not have time to write. Everything you have heard appears to be true. EBT benefits may be withheld in early November. At what point they might resume I do not know. But there is more to this story than a government shutdown or dirty politics.
First let me give you a quote, video and copy of a letter from Mac's article so you can get up to speed, if you do not already know what is going on. Then we will start to fill in the gaps that we can. Mac Slavo reports:
…the USDA, which oversees the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), has just issued an order to SNAP agency directors calling for their respective States to implement an emergency contingency program because of government funding issues. In a letter obtained by the Crossroads Urban Center food pantry, the USDA is directing state agencies to, "delay their November issuance files and delay transmission to State Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) vendors until further notice."
Here is the USDA letter in full:
A lot of people are obviously in shock about this development and the natural reaction for a conservative might be to blame the Obama administration. Are they trying to make people hurt in order to villainize republicans over the government shutdown? Possibly, but there is more to it.
Here is what people need to understand. If you are on food stamps it is going to hurt whether this looming disaster is avoided or not. This did not pop up out of the blue. There was a planned cutback of SNAP benefits starting November 1, 2013 already in place. It was passed through congress in 2010 and was scheduled for this date.
Stacy Dean reported in December of 2012:
As policymakers deliberate over the "fiscal cliff" and calls are coming from some quarters for major cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps), they should take this into account: SNAP benefits are already scheduled to fall next November 1, when the 2009 Recovery Act's temporary benefits boost ends. Any further cuts would come on top of these significant reductions and would cause further hardship.
Benefits will decline for every SNAP household. For families of three, the cut likely will be $25 to $30 a month — $300 to $360 a year.
That's a serious loss, especially in light of the very low size of basic SNAP benefits. Without the Recovery Act's boost, SNAP benefits average only about $1.30 per person per meal. Nutrition experts have long held that these levels are inadequate to meet families' basic food needs.
The Recovery Act boosted SNAP benefits beginning in April 2009, which helped to spur economic activity and assist low-income households during the Great Recession. The Recovery Act called for benefits to remain at their new, higher level until the program's regular annual inflation adjustments overtook it. In 2010, however, Congress passed legislation ending the increase abruptly on November 1, 2013.
The exact amount of the cut that households will face in November won't be clear until July, when the Agriculture Department (USDA) will calculate SNAP benefit levels for fiscal year 2014 based on June food costs. But, the cut apparently will be roughly $8 to $10 per person per month, based on the Congressional Budget Office's current food-inflation forecast.
These cuts will likely cause hardship for some SNAP participants, who include 22 million children (10 million of whom live in "deep poverty," with family incomes below half of the poverty line) and 9 million people who are elderly or have a serious disability.
This announcement obviously coincides with an already planned cut. What I am telling you is that if you are on food stamp benefits then you are not going to like the end result even if you get your benefits in November. They were already scheduled to be reduced.
My hope is that this letter coincides with a recalculation of benefits and that it won't delay things for more than a week. I really do not know that it is directly tied to the current government shut down although I know that any opportunistic politician will tell you it is (while blaming the other party).
I think it is important that we do not jump to that conclusion but that recipients do expect that there will be a probable delay in their benefits. This would be typical of an inefficient government that always tends to wait until the last minute. If benefits are to be reduced on November 1st then this should have already been taken care of. It is my hope that this is the explanation.
With that said, the USDA letter does mention a concern over a "continued lapse in federal funding" which could point to something bigger. Will that be resolved when the shutdown ends? I do not know.
My suggestion is that people prepare for the worst and think about ways they can help out, or reach out, if benefits are delayed or cut off. I have some family members that receive EBT benefits and I have to be prepared to feed them if necessary. They may be forced to eat hot dogs and macaroni & cheese but I will help them all I can. Please keep this in mind. If you will not be effected then think of those who may be. If you will be effected then let loose of your pride and reach out. Family is family and we must do what we can to take care of our own.
Should you help someone who has been abusing the system for years? My opinion is that you should not. It may be time for some tough love. But we need to remember that not all EBT recipients are career welfare abusers.
Daisy Luther made this point yesterday:
- The median household income in America has dropped for the 5th year in a row, according to the US Census Bureau.
- Over 1/3 of Americans who are able to work are unable to find a job – 36% of the population is unemployed.
- Obamacare is turning us into a part-time nation. For every full time job created in the United States in 2013, we've created four part-time jobs. Employers are not hiring people full time if it means they'll have to pay for skyrocketing insurance benefits.
- More than 2.3 million residential properties were foreclosed on in 2012, leaving families displaced when they could no longer afford their homes.
- 50% of all Americans are considered "poor" or "low-income" according to the US Census Bureau.
- The unemployment rate in the U.S. has been above 8 percent for 40 months in a row, and 42 percent of all unemployed Americans have been out of work for at least half a year. (source)
- Those often being hit the hardest are those just entering the labor market. For example, about 53 percent of all U.S. college graduates under the age of 25 were either unemployed or underemployed last year. Most of the jobs that are available for young college graduates (or for the rest of us for that matter) are crappy low paying jobs that often come with no benefits. In the United States today, one out of every four workers makes ten dollars an hour or less. Now, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.(source)
We all know that the system is the victim of a lot of lazy people who have abused it for years, but not all EBT recipients fit that description. So please use some common sense and help out where you can.
Many of you have already seen the video and read the story about the 16 states that lost EBT benefits over the weekend. It was a temporary problem that was fixed, but…
This letter might very well tie into that. I see two distinct possibilities.
The first possibility is that states were reacting to the letter and that caused a problem with the benefits database. I am not sure how those databases are set up, but if states were trying to make adjustments then it could have caused a glitch. That is just a guess. You may or may not agree with it. It is my opinion that it's possible.
The other possibility is one that the social networks are already abuzz with. There is a growing consensus that the EBT stoppage was a test to see how people might react. If they know that there is a benefit delay or cut coming in November they might have wanted to "look into the future" so to speak and see how people may react.
God help us if that is the case. This video is a good example of how crazy people can get in a relatively short amount of time. This is a story marked with some panic and much abuse.
The above video signals that even a short delay could see some people losing their heads. My personal opinion is that most of the problems came from people who were trying to steal from the system, but there were no doubt a few people who panicked and made a mad dash to get food with honest intentions.
You need to understand that any kind of delay in benefits or stoppage of benefits could result in extra-long lines at grocers, riots, looting and stealing and it could affect any of us. Stock up if you are able and think about protecting your family if things actually begin to get out of control.
In summary I just want to say that I am hopeful that this is not as bad as it first seems. We haven't had time for the story to unravel yet. Only small media sources are reporting so far and we haven't had any statements to the public on behalf of the federal government. With that said I do not want anyone to wait around when they can do some common sense preparation soon. I want our readers to know that this could be on the way and I want them to prepare as best they can just in case this happens.
My gut feeling is that it will not be as bad as we think but that it will be a major challenge going forward. I don't think the sky is necessarily falling but I do think there will be delays and hungry people do some crazy things.
Please prepare yourself in a common sense way. No one needs to panic but stocking up on extra dry goods and bottled water would certainly be wise.
The worst case scenario is pretty bad and I don't think I need to go into detail because many are already thinking it. If this is financial based, and the food stamp program is in fact insolvent, then it could trigger lots of things including a national state of emergency and martial law. That possibility is there as well and we need to be prepared for it.
I will update you when I know something. Hang in there and talk about preparation with your family within the next few days. It's OK to wait a day or two because we may have a break in the story that tells us that it won't be as bad as it now looks.
But don't wait too long.