The toughest state for getting food stamps

Turns out it's not one of the GOP-led, conservative ones. Liberal California has the lowest participation rate in the country.

By Aimee Picchi Aug 19, 2013 12:57PM

A food stamps sign in a store window on April 14, 2013 (© Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)In the political debate over soaring food-stamp usage, one state stands apart from the rest: liberal California, which ranks as the most efficient U.S. state at keeping residents off the rolls. 

Only 55% of eligible Californians received food stamp benefits in 2010, the lowest participation rate of any U.S. state, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nationally, about three-quarters of eligible Americans sign up for the food aid program. 

How does California discourage residents from signing up? Unfriendly offices, tough requirements and confusing applications, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

That may please some conservatives who criticize the program as bloated and prone to fraud, but it also may be hindering California's economy, the Times notes. Because the program is funded mainly by the federal government, California is missing out on about $6 billion in potential federal aid that its residents could spend at local food stores. 

Even at 55% participation, California is the biggest food-stamp state, on a dollar basis. About $6.48 billion in food aid was distributed to residents in fiscal year 2011, more than any other state, according to the USDA. 

The paradox of food-stamp usage is shown in stark relief by looking at Texas, helmed by a Republican governor and known for its right-leaning population. 

The Lone Star State had nearly 4 million residents claiming food aid in fiscal 2011, more than California's 3.67 million participants. Texas' food-stamp bill of about $6 billion was lower than California's because Texans get smaller per-person benefits. But about 65% of eligible Lone Star State residents receive the benefit, according to the USDA.

Despite Texas Gov. Rick Perry's vow to slash government spending, the state has eliminated the requirement that food stamp participants get fingerprinted, the Times noted. (California's Gov. Jerry Brown later signed a bill to do away with that requirement.) 

Indeed, the reality of food stamp usage doesn't always jibe with political leanings. For instance, 213 of the 254 counties where food stamp usage doubled from 2007 to 2011 voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, according to a Bloomberg estimate.

To be sure, several liberal-leaning states have the highest participation of eligible residents. Maine and Oregon, for instance, top the list at 100% participation. But Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky -- whose voters supported Romney in 2012 -- were among those right-leaning states with higher-than average participation rates. 

The food stamp program is also coming under fire from some mayors who want to ban the the benefit's use to buy sodas such as Coca-Cola (KO), while health advocacy groups are urging the government to restrict junk-food purchases. 

The bottom line, however, is that it's not always in a state's best interest to stem food stamp enrollment because of the benefit to local spending. 

Or as senior research fellow Robert Rector of the conservative Heritage Foundation told the L.A. Times: "It would bring them political controversy and no financial gain for their state. It is like asking them to jump into a buzz saw and to bring their governor along."

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 

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Aug 19, 2013 1:24PM
Interesting.  Just last week there was an interview online of a CA surfer punk bragging about how he uses his food stamps to buy shrimp and lobster.  They didn't say what he does the rest of the month for food once he's blown his monthly allotment, but obviously, he wasn't starving.  Maybe they need to look him up and reevaluate his need for public, taxpayer assistance.
Aug 19, 2013 2:58PM
Want to starve them out?  Hide their food stamp card under their work shoes.
Aug 19, 2013 4:29PM

"How does California discourage residents from signing up? "


The application is in English,

Aug 19, 2013 2:20PM
I have no problem with people who are on food stamps getting this money from the Government if they qualify for it.  I do have a problem with people who are milking the system and getting food stamps that should not be on them and if they have a brand new Lexus or BMW like a couple of people I know then they should be arrested.  Unfortunately there are not enough agents employed to investigate all the fraud...maybe Government should hire more agents who in the long run would be saving the US millions of dollars & the hiring would be beneficial as to more jobs are created & less money is being flushed away on cheaters..
Aug 19, 2013 2:19PM

I went to college in Kentucky.  80% of the food stamp recipients live in the city of Louisville.  Within the city limits of Louisville, it is 75% black.  Blacks voted 96% for Obama.  It's the same situation in Mississippi which has the highest black population percentage in the US.  So the food stamp freeloaders are people who are ultra-liberals and always vote democrat.  Funny how the ultra-liberal reporter does not tell us this.

Aug 19, 2013 1:58PM
The author is an anti-Conservative propagandist.  Read the fine print.  Only "55% of eligible" receive Food Stamps.  All that means is that California is actually enforcing the law and asking illegal aliens to provide a valid Social Security number, which, of course, they do not have.  Last week the author wrote a snarky "analysis" of Food Stamp use in "Red States" like Mississippi, which I think was the #1 Food Stamp state in the country.  She implied that huge numbers of "Conservatives" were using Food Stamps.  WRONG.  Mississippi is 40% Black, and Food Stamp use is overwhelmingly by Black residents, who vote 90% to 95% for the Democratic Party.  
Aug 19, 2013 1:48PM
and as far as jobs go....what jobs? I am lucky to have mine and so is my wife. The only jobs created under the Obaminator are minimum wage or part time. Most would be better off joining the military...oh wait..that's getting cut too.

Aug 19, 2013 2:31PM
We have quite a bit of problems in this country. We send money to other nations who end up spitting in our faces and sponsoring terrorism against us. We have a growing natural resources problem whose main effort is destroying our environment. We have a government that does not represent the needs of it's people nor has it in the last 60 years. The immigration and entitlement programs are a total mess and nobody in power wants to address either. People are suffering and starving and we will reach a breaking point soon. The next civil war won't be north vs will be neighbor vs. neighbor
Aug 19, 2013 1:12PM
Even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while. Congrats to Cali for getting it right. Send those free loaders on their way and tell them to get a job.
Aug 19, 2013 1:28PM
I know everybody hates the EBT free loaders. But the Federal government allows states to collect this money if they want it. And usually most of the time that money that the recipient gets is spent in stores, there in Cali. This may also be one of the nails in Cali's economy and why its bust. They choose not to participate in having such outrageous requirments. Money passed to civilians from the fed gov usually ends up being spent in the state. I personally would rather see some of the money we give to other countries to buy the loyalty which often doesn't, go to US citizens.
Aug 19, 2013 3:48PM
I have said it more than once, but I'll say it again, we are a Nation of neglect!  We have allowed ourselves to become overwhelmed by the % of recipients on Welfare/Snap Programs and do very little to encourage people to get off government assistance and go to work!  For MANY (and I mean TOO MANY) it's become a way of life and it goes from one generations to next and so on!  Until our Congressmen & Senators get off their asses and realize that there has got to be a CAP we put on benefits (meaning limited time) & force people to get off the benefits by getting a job, then it will never change. This must be nationwide-not just vary from State to State.  We need to quit sending jobs overseas and create more here and put people back to work!  We need to educate and encourage young ladies to not have babies out of wedlock and respect themselves and get that education!  We need to educate and encourage our young men not to dress like idiots, participate in gangs and become fathers in their teens. We need to drug test all recipients who want to get benefits (again this is Nationwide-all 50 States) and they must have photo id cards as proof of ID when they use it at ALL TIMES!  If caught selling their SNAP-they LOSE benefits indefinitely and can just get a damn job!   I realize there are many families who cannot make it without assistance, and I get that!  Single Parents, or families where both parents just don't make enough, I'm game for helping those who are willing to work and get the assistance.  I am 100% AGAINST those who are just lazy and say "we owe them".  That is CRAP!  Get a damn job!
Aug 19, 2013 1:39PM
food stamps subsidize low wage employers like fast food and others. all waitresses who are expected to get tips are exempted from minimum wage. they must get at least 1/3 of the minimum wage.
Aug 19, 2013 3:27PM

a lot of people are selling the food stamp money..........they will buy someone 200 worth of groceries for 100 cash.........and then they go buy drugs............another reason these people need to be drug tested

Aug 19, 2013 4:41PM

Here's one. Went to Walmart. Woman in front of me paid with food stamps benefit card. Apparently if you have a balance, you can get cash back, which she did.  got back in line then brought cigaretts with the money. I complained to the cashier who told me it was none of her business what the customer did with the money.


PS-I am 67 and still working.  Have been since I was 15.  Maybe I am the crazy one.

Aug 19, 2013 4:39PM
Drug test and fingerprint these freeloaders!!
Aug 19, 2013 4:16PM
At the market it's always the ones who look fit, well dressed, driving a new car, are bursting with energy and well rested who pull out their Food Stamp card, while those who work and slave paying taxes, eat like peasants.
Aug 19, 2013 4:26PM
We should junk ALL food stamps. Let the families, churches, fraternal and local organisations provide the charity to those who need it. Let the illegals go home. Let the 3rd. generations working the system learn to work. Let the "mamas" using multiple bastards to provide their living learn to go to work. Nothing in any Constitution gives the Government authority to take monay from workers to give to non workers. Family and local resources are more likely to provide the assistance those who live on charity need.

drug test for food stamps cant pass no food stamps


Aug 19, 2013 5:19PM
Here's the shoddy thing about government assistance - it's all or nothing. My family was hit hard by the recession, and we found ourselves as a well educated, unemployed family of five. We received food stamps, but found it very hard to come off government assistance as there wasn't a "transitional" program for those who make too much for traditional aid, but too little to get by 100% on their own. When you have 3 young children, working 3 jobs isn't always an option - especially when one is special needs and you have no family near by. Government assistance traps the poor and breeds dependence. If they offered a percentage based assistance based on income, you would see fewer and fewer people needing assistance, and more people working towards independence.
Aug 19, 2013 3:19PM







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