How States Could Restrict Use of Food Stamps in Trump Era

Officials in at least two states are preparing to ask the new Trump administration for approval to prohibit use of food stamps to buy junk food and candy—a restriction the Obama administration has opposed.

At least 25 states already prohibit welfare recipients from using Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to pay for alcohol, tobacco, gambling, lottery tickets, guns, or adult venues.

But heading into 2017, states such as Maine and Arkansas are looking to go further.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services plans to submit a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as soon as Donald Trump is sworn in as president Jan. 20. If approved, it would allow the state to prohibit food stamp recipients from using their benefits to buy sugary items such as candy and soda.

“We want to have it on their desks as soon as possible,” Mary Mayhew, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, told The Daily Signal, adding:

What an individual with their own money that they earned chooses to buy is their prerogative. What a program known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance—that is taxpayer funded—supports should be restricted and directed based upon the policy intent of the program.

In Arkansas, state Rep. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, has filed a bill in the state House of Representatives to restrict the use of food stamps to “food products and beverages that have sufficient nutritional value.”

“People can go buy Red Bull with food stamps,” Bentley said, “and that’s not encouraging health.”

Maine’s health and human services agency submitted a waiver request to the federal government last year that would have allowed it to ban the purchase of junk food with food stamps.

But the Agriculture Department ultimately denied Maine’s request. The federal government has yet to approve a waiver for any state looking to further restrict food stamp purchases.

Still, the rejection hasn’t deterred Mayhew, who hopes that the Trump administration will be more willing to accept changes to the food stamp program.

“I hope that this will be met with more common sense than it has in the past that a program known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance will put the emphasis back on nutrition in the development of policies and will support an effort by Maine to ban soda and candy to be able to be purchased with food stamps,” Mayhew said.

In Arkansas, Bentley’s bill doesn’t specify which foods and beverages would be prohibited—the state Department of Human Services is tasked with compiling a list—but she told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that chips, soda, and candy would be among the items banned.

The bill also instructs the Arkansas Department of Human Services to pursue a waiver from the federal government.

In an interview with Arkansas’ KFSM-TV, Bentley said:

We have a large amount of food stamps in our state, but yet we have the highest rate of senior hunger and hunger for kids. So obviously, the food isn’t headed in the right direction. I want it to be used for food at the table, and to feed kids.

Officials in both Maine and Arkansas said junk food bans would curb each state’s obesity rates, hold down Medicaid costs, and help ensure food stamp recipients use the food stamp program as intended.

Maine’s Medicaid program spent more than $1.5 million from October 2014 to October 2015 on medical claims related to obesity, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

In Arkansas, Medicaid and Medicare finance nearly 40 percent of the state’s $1.25 billion in obesity-related medical costs, according to a 2015 report issued by the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

“Everyone understands that soda and candy have no nutritional value and therefore don’t have any place in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” Mayhew said.

At least nine states—California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Vermont—have requested waivers from the federal government or called on Congress to allow states to ban junk food purchases with food stamps.

But none has been successful so far.

Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, said that under the Obama administration, the “general operating principle” has been to deny attempts by states to lessen the number of participants in the food stamp program, known as SNAP.

Since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, the number of those receiving SNAP benefits increased from 32 million to nearly 45 million by January 2016, according to the Agriculture Department.

“Waivers have revolved around ‘How do we make it as easy as possible to get people on the program?’” Archambault told The Daily Signal, describing the Obama administration’s approach.

Mayhew agreed.

“When states like Maine were seeking commonsense reform or the authority to manage the program in keeping with its focus and with a commonsense approach, those efforts were continually thwarted by the federal government,” she said. “There have been constant roadblocks thrown up by this administration.”

But following the Nov. 8 elections, which saw Republicans maintain control of the U.S. House and Senate as well as retake the White House, there could be movement on the federal level.

Some on Capitol Hill talk about moving a welfare reform bill in 2017 or 2018, Archambault said, which could set up a “robust discussion” surrounding the rules for various welfare programs, including food stamps.

“Some of these early requests for waivers could set the stage for a bigger discussion in Congress in terms of changing the rules and funding the programs,” he said, “and that would change the playing field.”

Though it’s possible states could see changes to the food stamp program in the Trump administration, questions remain.

“It’s a brave new world here with a new administration coming in, but with that does come some question marks,” Archambault said. “There’s pent-up demand at the state level to request flexibility, and we’ll have to wait and see.” (For more from the author of “How States Could Restrict Use of Food Stamps in Trump Era” please click HERE)

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GOOD THING DEMS RENAMED FOOD STAMPS TO SNAP: Otherwise We’d Have Confused It for a Massive Giveaway of Soda and Energy Drinks

A new study just released by the USDA, offers a very detailed look at exactly how participants in the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (SNAP, aka Food Stamps) spend their taxpayer-funded subsidies. Unfortunately for taxpayers, the amount of money spent on soft drinks and other unnecessary junk foods/drinks is fairly staggering. But, we suppose it’s a nice taxpayer funded subsidy for the soda industry…so score one for Warren Buffett and the Coca Cola lobbyists.

Per the study, nearly $360mm, or 5.4% of the $6.6BN of food expenditures made by SNAP recipients, is spent on soft drinks alone. In fact, soft drinks represent the single largest “commodity” purchased by SNAP participants with $100mm more spent on sodas than milk and $150mm more than beef.

Soft drinks were the top commodity bought by food stamp recipients shopping at outlets run by a single U.S. grocery retailer.

…That is according to a new study released by the Food and Nutrition Service, the federal agency responsible for running the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the food stamp program.

…By contrast, milk was the top commodity bought from the same retailer by customers not on food stamps.

(Read more from “GOOD THING DEMS RENAMED FOOD STAMPS TO SNAP: Otherwise We’d Have Confused It for a Massive Giveaway of Soda and Energy Drinks” HERE)

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SHOCKER: Militant Quakers Busted In “Biggest Ever Food Stamp Fraud” [+video]

While Wall Street has had its generous Federal Reserve sponsor for the past 8 years, literally printing money out of thin air, showering banks with risk-free profits and making the rich richer beyond their wildest dreams (although ever since the end of QE the pump has run dry), the rest of the US population was largely left to fend for itself. In the process, just as Wall Street demonstrated unprecedented creativity to come up with fraud that will make one’s head spin (if never lead to an actual prison sentence), so did the “99%”, the only difference being, of course, that for the mere mortals jail time is an all too certain outcome as are dramatic police raids.

This is the story of one such extremely creative if abhorrent crime, and raid, involving what may have been the biggest food-stamp crime ring bust in history.

As CSP reports, in Operation Stampede, what is being called the largest food-stamp trafficking takedown in history in terms of financial loss, law enforcement agencies filed federal charges last week against 22 Florida store owners or operators, including one convenience-store owner, in connection with schemes to illegally redeem food-stamp benefits for cash. Allegedly, the defendants fraudulently obtained more than $13 million dollars in EBT deposits for transactions in which the stores did not provide food.

According to the indictments, the defendants or their co-conspirators or employees swiped the recipient’s EBT card at a point-of-sale (POS) machine for an inflated amount and paid the recipient, in cash, a reduced percentage of the value of food-stamp benefits charged on the card. The defendants would realize a guaranteed, significant profit from each fraudulent transaction. In most situations, the recipient did not actually receive any food or eligible items in return for their food-stamp benefits.

In addition to the federal indictments, the Office of Statewide Prosecution charged six individuals for their alleged receipt of additional illegal payments during the course of their participation in fraudulent food-stamp schemes.

While most of the business are best classified as food stands, produce stands and “flea-market” retailers, one—ABC Food Market in Miami—is a convenience store owned by Zulfiqar Mithavayani. Since March 2013, Mithavayani and associate Jamal Al-Hawa allegedly redeemed and caused to be redeemed more than $1.1 million in EBT food-stamp benefits, more than $1 million more than the average convenience store in Florida during this period, according to the indictment.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is a federally funded, national program established by the United States government to alleviate hunger and malnutrition among lower income families. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers SNAP through its agency, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). FNS is responsible for the authorization and disqualification of retail food establishments participating in the redemption of SNAP benefits.

In this case, and in many others like it which have not been quite as prominent, the foodstamp program also led to criminal abuse of taxpayer funds. What is more troubling is that $13 million is an amount most financial professionals would barely sneeze at. While we applaud the law enforcement involved in this crackdown, we only wish regulators and enforcers demonstrated the same zeal when breaking up criminal cartels which have led to criminal gains that are orders of magnitude greater than the amount under consideration in this particular bust.

Below is a video clip of the historic bust.

(For more from the author of “SHOCKER: Militant Quakers Busted In “Biggest Ever Food Stamp Fraud”” please click HERE)

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America is a Food Stamp Nation

handout050815The gospel according to Wall Street, the White House and propaganda media is that the U.S. economy is recovering just fine.

Last week, happy-faced talking heads told us that unemployment was down to 5.4 percent — the lowest rate since May 2008 — even while the number of Americans not in the labor force climbed [by one estimate] to a record 93,194,000. The Labor Force Participation Rate (the percent of people 16 years old and older eligible to work) stands at 62.8 percent. Still, government men dutifully claim all is well, that the stock market is bullish. Now the Fed is talking about raising interest rates.

Yet as of January 2015, the number of Americans receiving food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, had topped 46 million for 41 straight months, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Every month now for more than three years, going back to September 2011, 14.5 percent of the American population received food stamps.

In the Great Depression, long bread lines of hungry people waiting hours to get a meager bite to eat were visible reminders to everyone of the country’s economic pain. This went on while, thanks to FDR’s Agriculture Adjustment Act; farmers were paid to slaughter livestock, burn crops and leave their land fallow in order to prop up farm prices.

Today’s digital bread lines are invisible and easy to ignore. Food stamps are today’s soup kitchens. Most Americans are totally unaware of their magnitude. But they are real. (Read more from “America Is a Food Stamp Nation” HERE)

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Government Worker Tells Woman She Must Trade Sex for Food Stamps

A woman desperate for help said she was told she’d have to trade sexual favors to feed her family.

The allegations are at the heart of a lawsuit which raises serious questions about the state’s Food Stamps program.

Shameka Bransford, a pregnant single mother who suffers from sickle cell anemia, claims an employee with the state Department of Human Services wanted something in return when she went to apply for food stamps.

“Basically if I did all these things I would qualify and get my food stamps,” Bransford said.

Bransford’s attorneys, Mary Parker and Stephen Crofford, are now suing the state. They said their client refused the state employee’s alleged demands, which included meeting him under a nearby bridge for sexual favors. (Read more from “Government Worker Tells Woman She Must Trade Sex for Food Stamps” HERE)

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Nearly 1 in 5 Households Will Celebrate Thanksgiving on Food Stamps

Nearly one in five U.S. households will celebrate Thanksgiving on food stamps this year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on participation in the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program.

Back in fiscal 2000, there were 106,061,000 households in the United States and, according to a USDA report published in November 2012, there was a monthly average of 7,335,000 households—or 6.9 percent—getting food stamps that year.


Read more from this story HERE.

New Federal Program to Double SNAP Value When Used to Buy Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Photo Credit: TownHall

Photo Credit: TownHall

When the farm bill was passed earlier this year, there was a little-hyped program included that seeks to double the value of SNAP (food stamp) dollars when they’re spent at farmer’s markets for fresh fruits and vegetables.

The program is an expansion of smaller programs at farmers markets throughout the country. The Crossroads Farmer’s Market was the recipient of a $5,000 grant from the National Watermelon Association, and used that money to redeem SNAP funds for double their value in the market. (A person would redeem 15 dollars of SNAP funds from their EBT card for 30 dollars worth of tokens to spend in the market.) Another program located in Harlem and the South Bronx gives SNAP recipients four additional “HealthBucks” coupons for fruits and vegetables for every ten dollars of SNAP funds spent at a farmer’s market.

The program has received support from both sides of the aisle, according to NPR:

He invited one of Michigan’s senators — Democrat Debbie Stabenow — to see Double Up Food Bucks for herself. And last year, Stabenow, who is chairwoman of the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, proposed including it in the so-called farm bill.

Read more from this story HERE.

Food Stamp Recipients Top 46 Million for 36th Straight Month

The number of beneficiaries on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program–food stamps–has now topped 46,000,000 for 36 straight months, according to new data released by the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

From September 2011 through August 2014, the latest month for which data is available, the number of persons participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has exceeded 46 million.


In August 2014, according to USDA, there were 46,484,828 beneficiaries of the SNAP program. That was down slightly—2,060 beneficiaries—from the 46,486,888 who got food stamps in July.

Read more from this story HERE.

Food Stamp Recipients, Advocates Sue Over Work Requirements

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty

Photo Credit: Joe Raedle / Getty

Most Americans agree that able-bodied adults should be required to do some type of work to receive welfare assistance. But two nonprofit groups and a handful of food stamp recipients in New Mexico are suing the state for trying to encourage just that.

Last Friday, a New Mexico district judge placed a temporary hold on the work requirements, which were set to go into effect Nov. 1. On Wednesday of this week, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez announced that the state would restart the process of putting the work requirements into place rather than going through the litigation process. The state will pursue the same work requirements.

While the food stamp program doesn’t have much of a work requirement, it does have a modest one for able-bodied adults without children (or other dependents). Able-bodied adults without children are limited to three months of food stamp benefits unless they work or participate in some type of work activity for at least 20 hours a week. However, since 2009 New Mexico—along with many other states—has received a federal waiver allowing them to bypass the work requirement. But New Mexico has decided to forego the waiver. The state also plans to insert modest work requirements for other able-bodied adults who don’t have young children (under age 6), requiring them to look for work or participate in community service.

But the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Southwest Organizing Project say that work requirements are unfair and are suing the New Mexico Human Services Department.

Read more from this story HERE.

Grayson’s Wife, Kids Now On Government Assistance

Photo Credit: APBarely a week after being named the 17th richest member of Congress, liberal firebrand and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson is refusing to support his estranged wife and their kids, and his wife has turned to government food stamps to support her family, WFTV 9 Orlando reports.

Grayson’s marriage of 29 years dissolved earlier this year when his wife, Lolita Grayson, filed for divorce. A week later, Rep. Grayson asked a court to annul the marriage on the basis of bigamy.

Mr. Grayson is refusing to support his family because he is claiming that she was never divorced from her first husband and therefore their marriage was never legitimate.

Mrs. Grayson told WFTV 9 Orlando she never thought she would be on food stamps or have her kids on the school lunch, because her husband was “the sole provider,” she said. “I don’t have any money at all. He’s been holding all our money for years and years.”

Read more from this story HERE.