California Has the Lowest Rate of Food Stamp Participation in the Union

by on August 23, 2013 · 17 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, History, Life Events

food stamps signThe news about California was not good last week.  The LA Times ran a jaw-dropping article on August 17th about how our great state of California has the lowest rate in the country of food stamp participation. Lower than even Texas which prides itself in limiting government.

By discouraging Californian needy to sign up for the giant federally-funded food stamp program, the LA Times reported that “only about half of those qualified get the aid ….”  This is in contrast to other states – some of which are run by Republicans are able to “enroll 80% to 90% of those with incomes low enough to qualify.”

And this is despite California’s image as a “liberal” and blue state.  The Times reported:

That public policy paradox — one of the country’s most liberal states is the stingiest on one of the nation’s biggest benefit programs — has several causes, some intentional, some not. It also has two clear consequences: Millions of Californians don’t get help, and the state leaves hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money on the table.

The federal government pays for almost all of the food stamp program, which provides cash aid to about 46 million Americans at a cost of $74.6 billion this year. States administer the program.

 Food stamps are a federally funded program and states receive a huge economic boost from more of their residents with money to dish out on rent, groceries, utilities, other consumer products and services – all of which clearly benefit the local and state economy.  Some states, the LA Times reports, even those with their legislature controlled by the GOP and a conservative governor, actually “pay contractors to scour the landscape for people to enroll in the program.”

The report cites “onerous paperwork requirements, inhospitable county benefits offices and confusing online applications” for California residents who attempt to apply for food stamps, and adds, “In California, sometimes even those who qualify get rejected, as understaffed agencies prove unable to properly process applications.”

Some of the more onerous requirements for applicants stem from policies instituted under the state’s Republican governors, our own Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzengger.  Both campaigned with pledges to root out government waste.  The former-renewed-actor vetoed several bills that would have done away with the fingerprinting of food stamp recipients.

The Times reports:

In 2011 the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California concluded after a study that the costly fingerprinting process did little to combat fraud but did discourage about 280,000 qualified people from signing up for CalFresh, as the food stamp program is known in California.

By then, even Texas had done away with fingerprinting. That October, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill ending California’s fingerprinting requirement.

Other hurdles, however, involve a problem that affects much of California’s government: the outmoded and inefficient data-intake systems the state uses to process applications. Different county agencies use different software programs, which are often incompatible with one another.

 Other requirements, such as having to produce bank statements, utility bills, day-care receipts and, until recently, fingerprints on a regular basis frustrates residents and immigrants alike.  Plus the state is one of 13 across the country that uphold a lifetime ban on food stamps for anyone convicted of drug dealing.

State law makers were urged at a recent hearing in Sacramento by adult probation officers for San Francisco to do away with that prohibition, a ban that affects nearly 20,000 people. The chief officer stated: “If an individual does not have this basic need met, it can trigger an episode, an addiction, and then that triggers the cycle [of criminal behavior] over and over again.”

The Times does note some positive developments in California, however:

Brown has taken several steps to loosen the state’s rules. In addition to ending the fingerprinting requirement, he also signed a measure that reduced the number of times each year applicants need to prove they qualify for assistance.

Yet nobody expects California to reach a participation rate of 92% anytime soon. That figure comes from conservative Tennessee, where Republicans control the governor’s office and both legislative chambers.

Here is the original LAT article.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean m August 23, 2013 at 12:29 pm

It is sad that one in seven Americans collect food stamps. Its worst that more Americans qualify.


Poortrucker September 6, 2013 at 3:43 pm

That’s the irony, so many red tape to qualify for food stamps. So when they turn you down, your only option is to turn to a life of crime like selling drugs, selling your body, burglary, etc…. and when they catch and prosecute you, you’re rewarded with a nice meal (and free lodging) inside the county jail or the state prison at tax payers’ expense.


Debra August 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm

The only person I have ever known on Food Stamps, was a former co-worker who quit her job, cashed out her pension and sat idly by, while her husband gambled all of it away at local Indian Casino’s. Needy? NO. Stupid? YES.


patty jones August 23, 2013 at 1:55 pm

You and the people you know are either very blessed not to have had to use food stamps or you are blind to those who may have had no other choice. I wonder, did that stupid woman also drive around in a Cadillac?


Jeffeck August 23, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Yet I have a good friend who is almost completely immobilized by Rheumatoid Arthritis and he has had such a big hassle trying to get food stamps that he quit trying. Just because my friend is no longer able work to support himself doesn’t “automatically” make him eligible for help.

The County/State must be hoarding them. But hey free food for those who “really” need.

After all, those able bodied welfare queens and surfer dudes gotta “eat right when money’s tight”


Debra August 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

That’s disgusting. Someone truly in need is denied, yet someone else who willingly quit a very well-paying job to lay around and do nothing but squander money was given help, no questions asked.


Frank Gormlie August 24, 2013 at 10:41 am

Debra, again, you must be pretty damn lucky not to know more folks in the bottom and middle rungs of society who’ve haven’t had to use food stamps (EBT). You are so lucky you’ve lost any compassion for those less fortunate than yourself.


Debra August 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm

I’m far from being “lucky.” However, I do personally know of people who scammed the system after wasting their own money and time (daily gambling/sunbathing by a built-in swimming pool at a now foreclosed upon house/buying a $1500 Luis Vuitton handbag) that could’ve been spent either in school or seeking other employment. I have all the compassion in the world for people who actually ARE in need–like the guy suffering from debilitating RA. I hardly think expecting able-bodied people to fend for themselves and make responsible decisions is dumb.


Frank Gormlie August 24, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Yes, but to cite anecdotal stories of scams (your friends?) while so many of your/our fellow Californians need help, genuine help, and there’s a federal program out there to provide that help, yet somehow our “great” state is not allowing them to get that help, makes one appear to lack that compassion you claim. Where is the concept of ‘we’re all in this together’? Rats compete. How can anyone make “responsible decisions” during the greatest economic downturn in our nation’s history in nearly 70 years, when so many homes are under water, the only jobs being created are part-time and service sector jobs, … well, you know what has been going on ….


obecean August 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm

I wonder if those who trash the food stamp program and other ‘safety nets’ ever consider– what if the shoe was on the other foot? If for no reason of their own they suddenly became jobless, had little savings, not entitled to UI benefits and couldn’t find work right away and had no food stamp program to turn to because selfish people ended it. What should they do?

People like Debbie aka Debra have zero understanding of these programs and their purpose. There ought to be a basic test on civics……


Frank Gormlie August 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

The “welfare queen” scare was one of Ronnie Reagan’s campaign lies he used to help him get elected. It’s now fairly commonly viewed as one of those racist efforts by Republicans to galvanize the racist white voters – and it looks like it worked. Does not mean Jeffect that you ought to continue the myth.

And btw, San Diego County still remains one of the worst counties in the worst state in its food stamp rate.


Bearded OBcean August 26, 2013 at 9:54 am

Perhaps it’s only commonly viewed by people of the left who look for racism in pretty much everything spoken from someone on the right.


Frank Gormlie August 26, 2013 at 11:54 am

B.O. – It’s commonly understood that Republican presidential candidates often use the race card in trying to win votes, starting with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” , and continued with Reagan’s ‘welfare queen’ threats – and everyone knew what he was talking about – Black people.


Louisa August 29, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Have we all forgotten that the food stamp program is really a farm welfare program? At least it once was. Maybe that’s changed now.

Regardless, I don’t understand why people are so stingy about food relief. I don’t care HOW someone came to be in the situation of needing food. Lack of executive function skills, poor health, whatever. I don’t want to live in a society that lets people, including foolish people or selfish people or silly people, go hungry. (Or one that allows people to go without shelter or medical care, either, but that’s a different article.)

I mean really. Do people really believe that someone should be punished for laziness (assuming that’s really what caused the need for food) by starvation? Really? Here? In this very wealthy country? I think that’s shameful.


Fotios Tsimboukakis September 6, 2013 at 7:42 am

I find it interesting that a number of people,out of political,religious or even racist beliefs happen to ONLY “know” people or have “friends” who don’t deserve government aid or have abused the system. As I tell people often,”Yesterday there many babies born in San Diego,but I wasn’t one of them. I came to this country legally in 1977. Almost immediately I started working 6 days a week at the busiest,at the time,grocery store in Downtown San Diego,in the heart of poverty and ethnic and racial diversity. I ended up working there for a total of 9 years. Much of our business was from food stamps and WIC. And let me tell you who the users were. Poor,uneducated,Whites,Blacks,Mexicans. The common denominator was UNEDUCATED. Few were “users”. And due to costs they got their drugs through sex exchange/selling and dealing. Many were retirees that used to collect $500-$600 in Social Security. after 45 years of work, owned 1-2 pairs of pants and 2-3 shirts and lived in dirty overpriced residential motels. Most of the people I knew on government aid owned fewer things than could fill a small suitcase. AND NOT BY CHOICE. Was there attempted abuse? yes. maybe 2 out of 100 so they can get booze and smokes. That was it. Having been blessed to have worked in the poor areas in San Diego county, and San Fransisco(Tenderloin), I can tell you there is a lot of poverty that people in the suburbs where I live have NOT a clue about. Neither do most politicians nor they genuinely care.


Poortrucker September 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I’m disabled, can’t work, but had applied and was told I’m not qualified for food stamps because I’m taking classes that will eventually get a desk job in office administration. Los Angeles County Social Services forbids anyone from getting food stamps while attending ANY school or while receiving ANY type of educational training.


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