Newark, NJ, mayor goes on food stamps

But many people who are eligible for the benefit don't apply.

By Jonathan Berr Nov 21, 2012 3:02PM
Though Newark, New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker's pledge to live on Food Stamps for a week has generated plenty of headlines, the bigger story with the entitlement program is that many people who are eligible to receive the benefits don't bother applying.

Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers what known officially as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), shows that roughly 1 in 4 people eligible to receive the benefits don't get them. The reasons why vary. According to the Food Action and Research Center, many people may not know that their eligible while others don't bother to participate because applying for benefits is a gigantic hassle.

"According to one USDA study, four times as many people drop out of the application
process as complete the process but are denied benefits," according to a report issued by the non-profit. "The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that some households, including those with eligible children, have had difficulty obtaining food stamp benefits because state and local governments limited benefits beyond the scope of what the law permits."

Another reason for the poor participation rate may be pride. I have never met anyone on public assistance who is pleased to be on the government dole. These people would much rather be working and supporting themselves and their families. But as anyone who has lived through the worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression knows, things don't always work out as people would like.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration unveiled a public relations blitz to get more people to enroll, which did not sit well with some political conservatives because the number of Americans receiving Food Stamps rose by more than 200% between 2000 and 2011 while spending surged by nearly 400%, according to the Heritage Foundation. Welfare spending is a focal point in the debate over the so-called Fiscal Cliff that's going on in Congress.  Some cuts will need to be made but let's hope they are done smartly and don't damage programs that really do help the poor such as Food Stamps.

As Booker, who many expect to challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie next year, will soon discover being dependent on the government for food isn't easy. The average benefit works out to about $4 a day, which doesn't leave much room for applicants to buy "extravagances" such as fresh fruit and vegetables. The food they can easily afford is the unhealthy stuff, which partially explains our country's soaring obesity rates.

--Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter@jdberr.

61Comments
Nov 21, 2012 7:22PM
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I find the above article shameful:  it seems to applaud the Obama Administration's use of taxpayer dollars to convince more people to become dependent on government aid.  If people are living their lives and paying for their own groceries like the rest of us, why does it make sense to try to convince them to take taxpayer money to pay for their food?  Furthermore, I find it atrocious that people are allowed to use EBT cards paid for by the taxpayers to buy junk food and candy bars.  If the taxpayers are going to pay for the groceries of some people, they should only be allowed to buy healthy foods and essentials, not candy and junk food.  Those who condone that sort of behaviour are as bad as the ones exploiting the system.   There were several grammatical errors in the article as well, but that's a different subject.
Nov 21, 2012 5:56PM
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"I have never met anyone on public assistance who is pleased to be on the government dole"?  Really???????  I personally know households of three, even four generations who the government (translation the taxpayers) have supported from cradle to grave.  The children in these homes have never seen an adult in their lives get up and go to work at a job.  In my small town the subsidized housing is the worst deal the town ever got snookered into.  The majority of our local police calls go to these apartments - domestic violence, drugs, child neglect.   I too am tired of seeing people on public assistance buying cigarettes, lottery tickets and Polar Pops while they all seem to have endless tatoos and cell phones.  These things cost alot of money and are NOT necessities.  If it's your own money I don't care what you spend it on, but I have worked my a** off for 38 years and am tired of seeing more and more of my hard-earned dollars going to support this kind of behavior.  I believe in giving a hand up and I believe in charity.  But I don't understand why our government is so determined to promote dependency and perpetuate this lifestyle. I believe we've reached the tipping point where there are more takers than makers.  Pay close attention to events in Greece and Spain, because that is where we are heading.  There is going to be class warfare in this country, but it's not between the rich and the poor.  It's between those who believe in working hard for the American Dream and those who feel they are entitled to support by our hard-earned livlihood.
Nov 21, 2012 5:23PM
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I own a convenience store and OFTEN have 4 large Red Bulls and candy totalling over $20 put on a customer's EBT card. I witness primarly junk food and soda, items my kids can't afford to buy, being purchased. Qualifying items should be restricted.

 

Nov 21, 2012 5:02PM
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The system is a abused and full of fraud.   Being a state social worker for Florida in Miami I was one a group that was assigned the responsibility of getting the food stamp program up and running in Miami.   Within one week of opening the first food stamp office some  low life were  finding ways to commit fraud by lying about the size of their family and income.   On top of that

a black market started almost immediately where these so called needy people would sell their stamps for 50 cents on the dollar so they could buy beer and cigarettes two forbidden items for

food stamp use.   This still goes on today with some people having as many as 5 different ID cards.   There are certain groups of people in our country where cheating and lying is a way of life and they are shameless.   These thieves ruin it for people that really need the assistance. 

Nov 21, 2012 5:00PM
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I don't think pride keeps too many people from applying since food stamps are being sold on the black market and in back alleys.  There are a lot of people happy to get whatever they can while they work under the table and glean whatever they can from entitlement programs.  For anyone to amke a statement that they have never met anyone who is happy to be collecting benefits is crazy.  Of course no one admits to being happy to collect benefits.  That's apparently why the people running these programs are completely unaware of the fraud going on.  If you are so stupid not to see it from the proof in the criminal justice system, please keep your stupid opinions to yourself.  Statements made like "fraud to too expensive to combat" are infuriating.  The people in charge of the programs should be fired and street smart people who really know what is going on should run things.
Nov 21, 2012 4:26PM
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 There is no such thing as "smart cuts" to SNAP! The author's own facts show that! Yes, the Obummer better continue to be the Food Stamp POTUS, because if he caves to the ReTHUGS, they will have nothing but sadistic thrills for the duration, as gutting SNAP will result in a food insecurity crisis that will make the 1930's look like a Sunday school picnic. And that is the quintessence of the Fiscal Cliff hysteria- a blatant attempt by the ReTHUGS, DINO's and their Fascist- Bourgeois overlords/ paymasters such as the Kochs, Adelsons, Peter G. Petersons, et. al., to smash the "Welfare State" for their (and Goldman- Sachs) financial and sadistic/ sociopathic pleasure.  For the sake of the poor and powerless, we can only "hope" that the Obummer stays firm until after Jan. 2, 2013. If he does, then it will be the crypto- fascists who will (at least) be on the defensive.
Nov 21, 2012 4:24PM
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The worst part is seeing ladies with manicures, iPhones, gold jewelry galore and their kids in expensive sneakers stand in front of you buying carts full of horrible microwave frozen foods, processed snacks and drinks in a myriad of unnatural colors.  All of it bought with their public assistance food cards.  They act as if it's the most natural thing in the world.  And yet,  you've had to carefully choose what to buy with the money you have.  They don't even try to buy anything remotely healthy, not even on the government's dime.  
Nov 21, 2012 4:22PM
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It is a shame and disgrace that anyone, and I mean anyone, be denied basic food, clothing and shelter in the United States.  The hypocrisy of the so-called Christian right-wingers who would deny the neediest among us, is proof of their sinfulness in the eyes of God.  They are among the worst scum on the planet.  The fact that their very own churches cannot meet the needs of their own neighbors shows how stingy they are, and how little they really care.  Do they really believe they will be forgiven their sins at their time of reckoning?   Yes, there may a small number/percentage of cheaters in these programs, but check the facts regarding how many children there are in poverty.  And, by the way, I am not one of those in need; and, I don't mind having some of my tax monies going to help the poor.
Nov 21, 2012 4:15PM
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It could be that there is a significant portion of people who qualify for these handouts who prefer to be self reliant.  There have been a number of times when my family and I could have benefited from a number of programs, but we made a choice to cut back on our expenses and avoid essentially taking money from those who make a little more than me.
Nov 21, 2012 4:11PM
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You are not looking in the right places and talking to the right people then, if you can't find someone who is "pleased" to be on this or any assistance program.  I know of and have heard stories about people and how the work the system to get all the assistance they can get, including going so far as to lie and cheat to beat the system.  These people seem to think they are owed something!  Having someone in front of me in the grocery store buying $10 worth of food, using there state issued assistance program debit card, and then taking $100 or more in cash as change.  You know that money isn't going to feed anyone....  SMH!
Nov 21, 2012 4:00PM
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A lot of times people don't get the assistance they're eligible for is they are too lazy to complete the necessary paperwork.  I work in low income housing and see it every day.  People want the government to support them completely but then bitch and complain when they have to fill out some paperwork once a year. 

Nov 21, 2012 3:57PM
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I know some who get about $25.00 a month, wow, can't even afford milk with that, yet have many illegals who get hundreds a month and live like kings and queens, don't get old and be a American.
Nov 21, 2012 3:53PM
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It should be difficult to get on the government dole.  Really difficult.  Raising benefits or making it easier to apply, or the government spending tax dollars encouraging people to apply only serves one purpose.  And that is to get an ever enlarging voting constituency. 

 

Once people get on the dole, they find ways to get around the rules, work under the table and pocket all those tax free benefits too.  And then they are hooked for life, just like the addict or smoker.  There are web sites and other sources that explain every way imaginable to skirt the rules and cheat  and how to game the system.

 

Don't be fooled by those saying the last thing anyone wants is to be on the dole.  If that were so, why are there millions on the dole for years, years and more years?

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