Thursday, September 13, 2007

Food Stamp Failures

Today's New York Times featured an editorial on the poor state of the Federal Food Stamp program in New York City. With its somewhat misleading but eye-catching title, Why the Hungry Refuse Help, the article discusses the recent study by the Urban Justice Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, that found that of 9,500 food stamp recipients, 5,800 had benefits cut off within 20 months of enrolling. Even though most were still eligible for the program, many failed to show up at city offices to renew their benefits citing the complex paperwork involved, long waits, and inability to get off work or leave children.

While the managers of the program, HRA (the Human Resources Administration), disputed the report's findings, official statistics show that even as New York poverty levels remain fairly constant, the number of City food stamp recipients fell by 7,000 in July 2007. As the City spends it own millions to support soup kitchens, food pantries, and other emergency food programs, it fails to maximize enrollment in the Federal Food Stamp program and thereby loses hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid. Reapplication by phone or even online, as well as changing it from the current 6 month period to the federal standard of 12 months, would help increase enrollment.

The Urban Justice Center's findings were also reported by WNYC and the Staten Island Advance.

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