The editorial "A modest proposal" (Feb. 8) stated 58,000 will lose food stamps on April 1. While thousands of unemployed childless adults will lose benefits due to recent policy changes, it is not true that 58,000 participants must lose benefits.
The Department of Social Services ran a report to determine how many food stamp participants would potentially be affected by the three-month time limit because they met some of the unemployed childless adult criteria. However, that report doesn’t take into account all factors that exempt participants from the three-month time limit, such as working a sufficient number of hours, pregnancy, medical unfitness for work, or receiving substance abuse treatment. Only individualized screening will determine whether individuals are actually subject to the three-month time limit.
Moreover, the state can connect individuals otherwise subject to the time limit to employment and training programs. Any individual who is sufficiently engaged in such activities is not subject to the time limit. However, participation is dependent on DSS informing people about these options and making affirmative efforts to engage them. If DSS simply cuts 58,000 people off in April, it is not doing its job: screening for individuals with disabilities and other employment barriers, and more importantly, engaging individuals in appropriate employment and training activities.
The media should not create an expectation that there is nothing we can do as nearly 60,000 people lose their food stamps. A recent report ranked Missouri sixth for food insecurity and second only to Arkansas for hunger. Given these facts, along with the potential loss of substantial federal funds (food stamps are 100 percent federally funded) and the burden on food pantries if nearly 60,000 Missourians lose benefits, it is important to implement this provision in a way that minimizes harm and ensures that the Post-Dispatch’s prediction does not come true.
Joel Ferber • St. Louis
Director of advocacy, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
Jamie Rodriguez • St. Louis
Staff attorney, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri