From Fox 11: Gov. Scott Walker moved ahead Monday with his plans to make Wisconsin the first state to drug test able-bodied adults applying for food stamps, a move blocked by the federal government or found to be unconstitutional when other states have tried.
Wisconsin’s plan was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature more than two years ago, but it languished because it conflicts with federal rules prohibiting states from imposing additional eligibility criteria on food stamp recipients.
Florida had a drug test requirement for food stamp recipients that a federal appeals court blocked in 2014, finding it violated constitutional protections against unreasonable searches. Walker filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 seeking approval to test food stamp applicants, but it was rejected because then-President Barack Obama’s administration had not yet formally rejected the state’s request to do the testing.
Walker asked then-President elect Donald Trump’s administration in December 2016 to make clear that drug screening is permissible, but it has not taken action and now Walker is moving ahead anyway.
Walker approved a rule change to implement the screening and sent it to the Legislature for review Monday. Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the governor believes he has the authority to implement the rule.
The Legislature has four months to review the rule and it could take a year after its approval before the testing would begin. Lawsuits by those who oppose the drug testing are expected once it’s implemented, assuming the federal government doesn’t step in and block it in the meantime.
Under the plan, childless FoodShare participants who fail a drug test would be eligible for state-funded rehabilitation treatment if they don’t have any other way to pay for it. FoodShare is Wisconsin’s name for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The Walker administration estimated that a small fraction of the program’s applicants — 220, or 0.3 percent, of the 67,400 applicants a year — would actually test positive for drugs. Walker has touted the drug testing as a way to put more drug-free workers into the workplace.
Opponents say that’s wrongheaded. “The state could do far more to expand the workforce by investing in broader access to effective drug treatment programs, rather than spending scarce state resources on the administration of drug screening and testing requirements,” said Jon Peacock, research director for Kids Forward, which advocates for children and families in Wisconsin.
Peacock said he was certain there would be a legal challenge over the constitutionality of drug screening food stamp recipients as well as whether such a move would be a violation of federal law governing the food stamp program.
Walker has pushed to expand drug testing for public benefit recipients. The budget he signed this year called for drug screening all able-bodied, childless adults applying for state Medicaid BadgerCare health benefits, pending federal approval. The budget also required drug test requirements for food stamp recipients would be expanded to parents of children ages 6 to 18.
Walker and 11 other governors in 2016 asked the federal government for permission to drug test food stamp recipients.
From al.com: Thirteen previously exempted Alabama counties saw an 85 percent drop in food stamp participation after work requirements were put in place on Jan. 1, according to the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
The counties – Greene, Hale, Perry, Dallas, Lowndes, Wilcox, Monroe, Conecuh, Clarke, Washington, Choctaw, Sumter and Barbour – had been exempt from a change that limited able-bodied adults without dependents to three months of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits within a three-year time frame unless they were working or participating in an approved training program.
During the economic downturn of 2011-2013, several states – including Alabama – waived the SNAP work requirements in response to high unemployment. It was reinstituted for 54 counties on Jan. 1, 2016 and for the remaining 13 on Jan. 1, 2017. As of April 2017, the highest jobless rate among the 13 previously excluded counties was in Wilcox County, which reported a state-high unemployment rate of 11.7 percent, down more than 11 percentage points from the county’s jobless rate for the same month of 2011.
Ending the exemption has dramatically cut the number of SNAP recipients in the counties.
As of Jan. 1, 2017, there were 13,663 able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps statewide. That number dropped to 7,483 by May 1, 2017. Among the 13 counties, there were 5,538 adults ages 18-50 without dependents receiving food stamps as of Jan. 1, 2017. That number dropped to 831 – a decline of about 85 percent – by May 1, 2017.
“Based on the trend, the number of (able-bodied adults without dependents) recipients for SNAP benefits is expected to continue to decline statewide and in the formerly 13 exempted counties,” according to Alabama DHR spokesperson John Hardy.
Statewide, the number of able-bodied adults receiving food stamps has fallen by almost 35,000 people since Jan. 1, 2016. Each recipient receives about $126 a month in benefits.
Nationwide, there are about 44 million people receiving SNAP benefits at a cost of about $71 billion. The Trump administration has vowed to cut the food stamp rolls over the next decade, including ensuring that able-bodied adults recipients are working.
From Fox News: An Arizona Democratic lawmaker who once voted against welfare fraud protections in her state has been indicted on felony charges of defrauding the food stamp program.
According to the indictment unsealed earlier this week, state Rep. Cecilia Velasquez was charged with three felony counts: unlawful use of food stamps, fraudulent schemes and practices, and theft.
The Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) began investigating Velasquez in 2014. According to the Arizona DES, Velasquez fraudulently used $1,726 worth of food stamps between 2013 and 2015.
This past February, Velasquez had voted against a bill aimed at giving the same state agency stronger anti-fraud tools – a program that could have quickly detected her alleged fraudulent activity.
Arizona state Rep. Anthony Kern, who sponsored the House bill, called the indictment “sad.”
“It is appalling that an elected official representing the people of Arizona would steal from the poor, while consistently saying she is trying to help the poor,” Kern told Fox News.
Josh Archambault, senior fellow with the Foundation for Government Accountability, pointed to the failed legislation as the kind of measures the country needs to tackle fraud. “There is so much low-hanging fruit to catch in this country when it comes to welfare fraud, and sadly, every day that goes by without reform allows for abuse and steals resources from the truly needy,” Archambault told Fox News.
Velasquez’s indictment was announced this week after an investigation by several state agencies.
According to Arizona Inspector General Juan J. Arcellana, the investigation began with a tip in November 2014. “The indictment of State Representative Velasquez is the culmination of an extensive multi-year investigation,” Arcellana said in a statement. “The forthcoming judicial proceedings will ensure due process for the involved parties.”
Velasquez’s office has not responded to Fox News’ request for comment. The initial hearing is set for July 5 in Maricopa County Superior Court.
The Obama administration governs school lunches yet they aren’t happy with LePage’s request. I’m guessing that’s because many of the food stamp recipients vote.
From Fox News: Maine Gov. Paul LePage is ramping up a battle over Mars bars and Mountain Dew, warning the Obama administration he’ll move to ban food stamp recipients in his state from buying such sugary sweets with taxpayer money – or halt the program entirely. The warning comes after the Obama administration shot down his request for a waiver to institute the ban on candy and sugary drinks.
The firebrand Republican wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack objecting vociferously to the agency’s decision. In the June 17 letter, LePage called the ban “a commonsense proposition.”
Citing Maine’s rising obesity and diabetes rates, LePage said he will look “to implement reform unilaterally or cease Maine’s administration of the food stamp program altogether.”
“It’s time for the federal government to wake up and smell the energy drinks,” wrote LePage, who went on to accuse the Obama administration of a double standard in the way it polices school cafeterias, but not how taxpayer money is used on the food stamp program.
“The Obama administration goes to great lengths to police the menus of K-12 cafeterias but looks the other way as billions of taxpayer dollars finance a steady diet of Mars bars and Mountain Dew,” LePage said. “I can think of only one reason why the federal government would refuse to eliminate junk food from the EBT menu: special interests.”
LePage noted that only 31 percent of Mainers eat the recommended amount of vegetables. He says that taxpayers are also paying for the consequences of poor eating habits because most SNAP recipients also receive Medicaid.
“Beyond the health effects of the federal government’s corrupt food stamp policy is the tragedy of billions in wasted taxpayer dollars that buy candy and soda through a program that was originally designed to reduce hunger. Maine taxpayers see it every day at the grocery store and they are sick and tired of watching their hard-earned money go down the drain,” LePage said.
The LePage administration made the request in November after his proposal was rejected twice by the Maine Legislature, according to The Bangor Daily News.
State Rep. Drew Gattine, a Democrat, told The Daily News he felt the governor was looking for a fight with the Obama administration. “This just seems to me to be just the governor trying to pick a fight with the feds,” said Gattine. “Nobody thinks that people on food stamps should be buying snack food and candy and sugary drinks. What we really need to do is find a way to make healthy food more affordable.”
A very large black woman loses it after a convenience store denied her EBT card.
Finally, three men strong-armed her and threw her out of the store.
EBT card or Electronic Benefits Transfer card is a personal debit card used by food stamp recipients to purchase authorized items like food and basic necessities.
Although EBT cards are supposed to be used only to buy food, I’ve seen thrift (clothing) stores that accept EBT cards. Even worse, EBT cards have been used for marijuana, gambling, strip clubs, and sex toys. See:
H/t TruNews and FOTM‘s Hadenoughalready.
Washington Examiner: American workers would have to cough up a one-time “debt reduction fee” of $106,000 to pay off the nation’s debt that has grown 58 percent under President Obama, according to Harvard University’s Institute of Politics annual report on the USA.
The 91-page report provided to Secrets pegged the nation’s debt at $16.7 trillion, up from the $10.6 trillion inherited by Obama. “The debt has grown so quickly because of large and repeated annual deficits in federal spending,” said the report.
What’s more, the Annual Report of the USA, from the student at the Harvard Political Review and done in partnership with the American Education Foundation, found that food stamp usage has surged 77 percent during the recession and that Social Security benefits will be slashed 23 percent starting in 2033 unless Congress and the White House institute sweeping reforms.
The report is considered one of the nation’s authoritative independent analysis review of federal spending. One of the best benefits of the report is that the authors try to put huge numbers like the debt in perspective.
“Such large sums are difficult to conceptualize properly,” said the student authors in their report.
“If the federal government spent its yearly revenues exclusively on debt reduction and ceased all of its operations, it would take three of four years to pay down the debt. Or, the government could pay down the debt in one blow if it simply took more than $52,000 from every person living in the U.S., including children, the elderly, and the unemployed. If this one-time ‘debt reduction fee’ were levied only on those in the workforce, the cost would be over $106,000 per person,” warned the report.
It also revealed how desperate American families have struggled during the recession that struck at the end of the Bush administration and has lasted through Obama’s two terms: food stamp participation has surged 77 percent and funding more than doubled to $71.8 billion.
Harvard said that from the beginning of the recession in late 2007, average monthly participation in the program jumped to historic levels and an annual bill of $30.4 billion.
The news isn’t much better on the Social Security front: “Without reform, Social Security beneficiaries will face a 23 percent benefit cut in 2033. By 2087, beneficiaries will receive 28 percent less than calculated under the current benefit formula.”