“But I didn’t know what else to do
and I got to a point where I swallowed
my pride and decided to do
what was best for my daughter.”
Meanwhile, the typical pay package
for the head of a company in the
Standard & Poor's 500 was $9 million in 2010
Capitol Hill Blue
By Krintina Cooke
August 23, 2011
Genna Saucedo supervises cashiers at a Wal-Mart in Pico Rivera, California, but her wages aren’t enough to feed herself and her 12-year-old son.
Saucedo, who earns $9.70 an hour for about 26 hours a week and lives with her mother, is one of the many Americans who survive because of government handouts in what has rapidly become a food stamp nation.
Altogether, there are now almost 46 million people in the United States on food stamps, roughly 15 percent of the population. That’s an increase of 74 percent since 2007, just before the financial crisis and a deep recession led to mass job losses.
At the same time, the cost doubled to reach $68 billion in 2010 — more than a third of the amount the U.S. government received in corporate income tax last year — which means the program has started to attract the attention of some Republican lawmakers looking for ways to cut the nation’s budget deficit.
While there are clearly some cases of abuse by people who claim food stamps but don’t really need them, for many Americans like Saucedo there is little current alternative if they are to put food on the table while paying rent and utility bills.
“It’s kind of sad that even though I’m working that I need to have government assistance. I have asked them to please put me on full-time so I can have benefits,” said the 32-year-old.
She’s worked at Wal-Mart for nine months, and applied for food stamps as soon as her probation ended. She said plenty of her colleagues are in the same situation.
So are her customers. Bill Simon, head of Wal-Mart’s U.S. operations, told a conference call last Tuesday that the company had seen an increase in the number of shoppers relying on government assistance for food.
About forty percent of food stamp recipients are, like Saucedo, in households in which at least one member of the family earns wages. Many more could be eligible: the government estimates one in three who could be on the program are not.
“If they’re working, they often think they can’t get help. But people can’t support their families on $10, $11, $12 an hour jobs, especially when you add transport, clothes, rent.” said Carolyn McLaughlin, executive director of BronxWorks, a social services organization in New York.
The maximum amount a family of four can receive in food stamps is $668 a month. They can only be used to buy food — though not hot food — and for plants and seeds to grow food.
Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all made efforts to raise awareness about the program and remove the stigma associated with it.
In 2004, paper coupons were replaced with cards similar to debit cards onto which benefits can be loaded. In 2008 they were renamed Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits though most people still call them food stamps.
Despite the bipartisan support for the program in the past, some of the recent political rhetoric has food stamp advocates worried.
Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich last year derided Democrats as “the party of food stamps”. And Republican leaders in the House of Representatives propose changing the program so that the funding is through a “block grant” to the states, rather than allowing it to grow automatically when needed due to an emergency, such as a natural disaster or economic crisis. The rest of the story...