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Food stamp distribution change creates more problems than it solves

Food stamp distribution change creates more problems than it solves

Wayne Hoffman
March 10, 2014
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March 10, 2014

A proposal to change the way food stamps are distributed in Idaho certainly wins points for cleverness. But that's all it gets.

House Bill 565 purports to fix a problem with food stamps. Right now, food stamp money is given out on the first day of the month. This causes 200,000 food stamp users to flood stores on a single day. Store owners complain that the result is long lines, upset customers and food abandoned in carts left to spoil.

The bill would allow the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare to stagger the release of food stamp money and cause food stamp recipients to visit the stores over several days.

Here's the problem: First, the bill pays for this little exercise with so-called performance money from the federal government. Performance bonus money is rewarded to the state when the state does a good job administering the program. In recent years, a good job has included signing up vast new people for food stamps. So now this bill proposes a process wherein there is an incentive to keep adding people onto the government program. That's a tad diabolical.

I'm certain that's not the sponsor's intent, but that is the end result.

Second, the point of the bill is to make food distribution easier. There is not a lot to be gained by making government handouts easier. When the safety net becomes a hammock, it becomes harder to get out. That's why House Bill 565 poses real problems, if it becomes a law.

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