Food stamp changes announced last week are just the start


Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the agency is planning two more rule changes aimed at making a better match between who’s really in need and who’s eligible. Currently, he says applicants can become automatically eligible just by dropping by a welfare office for a brochure. The revised rule would require you to actually receive welfare benefits.

And Perdue, a former Georgia governor, charges some states have manipulated another automatic-eligibility rule, giving residents a dollar in utility assistance to guarantee their food stamp eligibility.

Perdue made a string of Indianapolis stops on Monday, days after finalizing a rule tightening the work requirement for food stamps. The new rule will take effect April 1, and will limit states’ ability to opt out of the requirement. 36 states have applied for a waiver available to states with pockets of high unemployment. Perdue says that standard has been interpreted too loosely, with states getting waivers for areas whose unemployment rate is a full point below the national average. The new rule sets tougher criteria, requiring sustained unemployment above six-percent. Only five metro areas in the country have jobless rates that high, all in California and Arizona.

The rule change doesn’t affect Indiana, which embraced the work requirement when the exemption was offered four years ago. Of about 50-thousand Hoosiers receiving food stamps, about five-thousand found jobs — 29-thousand more were dropped from the rolls. U-S-D-A projects making the change nationally will take nearly 700-thousand people off food stamps.

Perdue says there’s no reason those people shouldn’t be able to meet the requirement. It applies only to able-bodied adults without dependents, and Perdue notes employers across the country are lamenting they need more workers. And Perdue maintains the requirement itself isn’t difficult — it requires only half-time work, and can be satisfied through job training or volunteer work.