Sunday, March 22, 2009

Food Stamps

The Times- Standard reports Food for People is trying to get everyone who is eligible to enroll in the Food Stamp program. It might surprise some to know I've never had too much of a problem with food stamps. I figure it's the least we can do to provide food to people in need.

It might also surprise some to know it's actually more difficult to qualify for food stamps than it is to qualify for MediCal or the County Medical Services Program.

We applied for food stamps a couple years ago after a particularly brutal month in regards work and travel to UCSF. It rained and rained and I wasn't working. Then, we had to go to UCSF for a consultation. To add insult to injury, not only did we have to stay two nights because the roads were snowed over, we had to return to UCSF a week later.

Then it rained and rained more when we returned and I basically only got about a week's work done that month. I was starting to worry we might not have enough money to buy food so, when we reapplied for MediCal, I went ahead and applied for food stamps and we eventually both qualified.

I pretty much just used them when cash was low. One month I didn't use food stamps at all and I received a letter from the Welfare Dept. shortly thereafter advising me that if I didn't use the food stamps by a certain date, I'd be taken off food stamps.

I say "I" because with food stamps you have to file a quarterly income report. Once Connie ended up on Social Security Disability, they threw her off food stamps, saying she couldn't get food stamps if she was on SSD (I know. Go figure. I asked about that but never got a response).

So, I got them for a while longer and used them. Then I filled out the quarterly report one time and sent it in. I was advised shortly thereafter I was being dropped from the Food Stamp program because I'd made too much money.

What a surprise. I make too much money? Oh well.

Anyway, the qualifications for all these social programs were made up some 30 years ago, I was told by one of the social workers, and it shows. For food stamps, you can't have more than $2000 in the bank (or cash on hand) to qualify.

That might seem doable for someone working for minimum wage and living in the Eureka Housing Authority projects but it's very difficult when you're self- employed and need money stored away for business or travel purposes.

For MediCal you can have up to $3000 in the bank. Interesting that the amount allowed for MediCal is greater than for food stamps, isn't it? Especially with all the stories I've heard about how easy it is to get food stamps.

They also look at your income. I'm not sure just how Food Stamps compares with MediCal but I think they might have roughly the same income formula since I don't recall two formulas.

Basically, they take your mortgage or rent costs and the costs of your utilities (water,power and phone). Add $600.00 to that and that's how much you supposedly can live on. If you make a certain amount more than that, you either get a reduction in food stamps or get booted altogether.

MediCal works slightly different than food stamps: If you make more than rent + utilities+ $600, they put you on Share of Cost. That basically means that the difference between rent plus utilities minus what you earned a particular month is what your share of cost towards medical care is. So, you basically spend any extra money you make on medical care until MediCal or CMSP takes over.

Both are unpleasant systems to deal with but it has always surprised me how the qualifications for food stamps were higher (higher= lower for purposes here: $3000 vs. $2000) than for MediCal. You'd think they'd be pretty much the same, or at the very least that it would be easier to qualify for free food than free medical care.


At 6:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we lived in So. Cal I used to see a very well dressed woman at the store and she was using food stamps. I happened to be in line in front of her one day and noticed that when she came out of the store she put her groceries into a new Cadillac. If you drove past the place where they issues good stamps you would see many "fancy" cars parked not in their parking lot but on the street. I guess you can scam the system somehow and someone always does. I have heard that people have moved to Humboldt County because of their loose SSI and food stamp requirements but maybe that time is over.

At 1:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Food Stamps is a federal government program. Medi-Cal is the State of California's version of the federal Medicaid program.

Each welfare program has its own rules. The eligibility worker's job is to evaluate people's application for welfare benefits and decide whether they are legally entitled to public (taxpayer) assistance. The worker's decision must be based on the rules and regulations, not on how they feel about someone who is applying for aid.

It's not an easy job. They help a lot of people who really need help and they also save the taxpayers a lot of money by weeding out the scammers. Yet they are often blamed for being loose with the taxpayers' money. But they knew life wasn't fair when they accepted the job.

At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fred is on foodstamps? Huh??

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Fred said...

"Fred is on foodstamps?".

Not for some time now. They booted us early last year, if memory serves me correct.

At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Imee said...

Food stamps can be a good thing. I've never been on it, but I wouldn't mind. I don't know if I'd qualify though, seeing that eligibility is now a little harder, which is also fine by me since sometimes people who can afford food prefer to go on welfare to "save" money.

At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The limits on how much money you can save while receiving welfare are low. Once you go over those "resource limits" you lose your eligibility. If you don't report that you have gone over the limits, you are committing welfare fraud - which, as everyone knows, is a crime.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this information. Can you tell me where I can find the "legal" documentation regarding:
"Once Connie ended up on Social Security Disability, they threw her off food stamps, saying she couldn't get food stamps if she was on SSD." My sister receives SSD from her ex-spouse, and is currently unemployed. Can she apply for food stamps for her and her daughter if they live with our father? Thanks so much for this great wealth of information. Hazel

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Fred said...

I can't help you with any documentation as I'm still not clear on the situation. They just sent notice that they were stopping her food stamps and it had something to do with her being on SSD. I called the worker and asked to clarify it on her answering machine but never got a response so I don't know exactly what was going on.

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SSI is Social Security Disability, so is SSA Disability. SSI is for people who are disabled and have not paid into the system by working in their lifetime. SSA Dis is for people who are disabled but at one time have paid into the system by working. SSI is a federal program. The state of California is the only state that has SSP which is a supplement that goes with the SSI. Due to the SSP (supplement), SSI recipients are not eligible for food stamps. The SSP is a supplement meant for food. So, if you are on SSI in California, you get more per month than if you lived in any other state. Adversely, if you are on SSI in California you are also getting the SSP (food supplement) and therefore not eligible for food stamps. Does that make sense?

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a federal regulation regarding Food Stamp Ineligible Students. If a person with no children is attending an institute of higher education half time or more, they are not eligible for Food Stamps unless they meet an exemption. Exemptions are working at least 20 hrs per week, participation in a federally funded work study program, mentally or physically incapacitated, have children under the age of 6....This regulation needs to be overturned. I urge everyone to write to their congressman about reversing this regulation. I wrote to the USDA who said all I can do is write to my Representative. You can go online to the Congress website and write a letter online.


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