This article is in response to Welfare in America: Who is Denied Assistance? by Superdork published on October 23, 2006. Superdork (who we will refer to hereinafter as SD) feels punished by being denied food stamps, while other familes who don’t work spend their welfare benefits on “drugs and alcohol, trips to the nail salon, etc.” Here is some information that may help you determine whether you are eligible for food stamps or not, without even going to the state office.
First of all, if you want to apply for food stamps and you are fortunate enough to have a computer you know how to use, and an internet connection, then you may have the ability to find out whether you qualify for food stamps online. Look up your state to see if they have a food stamp calculator. Even though the food stamps program is Federal, individual States administer it and rules may vary somewhat. SD’s article refers to the State of Texas so we will deal with the information pertaining to that State.
The Texas Food Stamp Benefit Estimator can readily be found online at http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/
programs/FoodStamps/estimator/index.html. Here you will find a series of questions designed to tell you if you qualify for food stamps, and if you do, approximately how much money you will qualify for. SD gives an income as $1647 for a family of 4 with one car used primarily for work, although to use the calculator, the family would need to put in monthly rent. There is also a chart explaining income limits for Texas Food Stamps on this page – http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us/programs/
TexasWorks/foodstamp.html. Here it shows you that a family of four cannot qualify for food stamps if its gross income exceeds $2097 a month. At first glance, then, it would seem that SD should qualify. However, we do not know if this is the $1647 is gross income The chart shows that a net income of over $1613 will get you disqualified.
If it is only food stamps that you are after, once you consult these two resources and find that you do qualify, you can download and print out an application for assistance. You can then either mail it or drop it off at your local Welfare Office and they will set up an appointment for you. If you are in dire need, you should go to your local Welfare Office and apply for same-day benefits. You will be there most of the day, but you will be issued a food stamp card that day.
On the same page as the downloadable forms there is also a link to the State of Texas Assistance and Referral (STARS) site where you may self-screen to see if you qualify for any other state benefits.
There is no shame in needing food stamp or any other type of government assistance. If you need it and you qualify for it, then there is no reason in the world why you shouldn’t apply for it and get it. If you don’t qualify for it, there is no conspiracy going on. You simply exceed the income limits. While there are many people who cannot qualify for food stamps or other benefits because their income is a few dollars over the limit, this is not the fault of the State workers. They are doing a job and they are bound to issue benefits based upon the income limits. They cannot violate these limits, in the same way that we must observe the rules of our own jobs in order to keep them. They are not there to hold your hand, sympathize with your plight or, conversely, engage in ruthless tactics to withhold benefits from you. You either qualify or you don’t.
This is not to say that Welfare caseworkers do not make mistakes. They are human after all. There also are some, as in every other occupation, who are simply unpleasant creatures to have to deal with. If you have your information and facts in order and feel you have been denied unfairly, make sure to get a denial letter. You can appeal the decision. If a Welfare caseworker mistreats you, you can file a complaint about it.
If you do not qualify because your income is slightly over the limit for your family size, and you feel that you would be better off getting the food stamps, you could take a job paying a little under your limit, or you can ask for a slight paycut. These may not be viable options or the allotment you may qualify for may very well not be worth getting a lesser paying job. Be sure to check back with the food stamp calculator if your income remains static. When the limits are adjusted for inflation, you may qualify. Just be aware that you are not going to get the same allotment as someone with the same family size and no income or lower income than you have. Cash on hand or in bank accounts will likewise reduce your allotment.
There are other means you can employ to make ends meet. You may be very well be able to juggle your expenses so that you can equal or exceed what your food stamps allotment would have been if you earned a few dollars less. Learn to stretch your food dollars and look into other resources. Shop sales all year round to get the best prices on everything you buy. Many churches help people whose budgets are stretched too thin with clothing and other supplies. Thrift shops have decent secondhand clothing, books, toys and other items at very reasonable prices. They often have weekly sales where the clothing is reduced, making it even more affordable. Rearranging your shopping budget and planning meals to coincide with supermarket sales is another way to make ends meet.
I don’t know how SD knows the people are buying drugs and alcohol and going to the nail salon are on welfare. Certainly, they aren’t paying for the drugs, alcohol or nail salon visits with a food stamps card because it’s not going to be accepted at the liquor store or nail salon, and I doubt if the local drug dealer will accept it. The government says that fraud involving selling food stamps for cash has been substantially reduced by the use of Electronic Benefit Cards. All the same, there are people who are commit fraud in getting food stamps and other benefits that they aren’t entitled to. Again, that is not the fault of the State workers that are in the local offices making the awards. The majority of workers serve many many people a day and make the awards to the best of their ability, based on the documentation that is presented to them. Welfare investigators check into the veracity of these documents and if information is found to be false, the perpetrators will then be disqualified from the program and required to pay back the money they stole. Nowadays, investigators have access to a great deal of information, such as child support payments and employment records, and can easily find out any reported income applicants may have obtained and neglected to disclose.
Times have changed and while there are several exemptions and circumstances where people who collect food stamps cannot or do not have to work, Texas generally requires able-bodied, unemployed food stamp recipients to register with Work in Texas and make 15 work contacts a week until they find a job.
Educating yourself and doing a little research is your best bet. Not only can it save you an unnecessary and frustrating trip to the Welfare Office, it can also prevent you from jumping to erroneous conclusions. If you do not have access to a computer, you may be able to obtain your State’s income limits from your local library, or you can call your county food stamp office and ask what the income limits are for your family size.