How do the rich stay rich? By robbing the poor, apparently. Er, that’s how Florida Republicans do it, at least.
Florida GOP voted to take away food stamps from nearly 230,000 low-income state residents, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The House Appropriations Committee passed House Bill 581 on Wednesday which would require household income to be at 130 percent of the poverty threshold before being eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.
After the Great Recession of 2008, the federal government expanded food stamp eligibility to households falling within 200 percent of the poverty level, however, the panel’s chairman Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami) says the new bill will reduce food stamp “fraud,” as he recalls seeing individuals with “a Mercedes key chain and their SNAP card” in local grocery stores.
Now, a family of four making $2,633 is the maximum household income to qualify for SNAP, or 130 percent of the poverty level. That’s down from the $4,050 monthly income threshold for a family of four, which the government increased following the recession.
House Bill 581 was introduced by freshman state Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola), who told press “every tax dollar is sacred. We should spend those tax dollars as if they are our own.”
But reports indicate that those who receive social assistance such as the SNAP benefits expend much less than families not receiving assistance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that a families receiving assistance spent $30,582 per year compared to roughly double that, $66,525, by families not receiving any government assistance. Those statistics suggest that the people receiving government assistance are by and large not driving a Mercedes or frivolously spending money on other things, so the reduction will hurt many who are genuinely struggling.
Trujillo zeroed in on South Florida where he recalled seeing a woman at a Sedano’s Supermarket in an area where he believes food stamps are largely abused:
‘I’m not sure if she was buying food for her grandmother but it seemed to me like it was all her own stuff. I think there’s a lot, a lot of abuse in South Florida.’
But a House analysis of White’s bill found that Florida has had one of the lowest food stamp error rates of any state, and has bonuses from the federal government totaling $54 million over the past seven years for their impeccable record.
Sadly, the new legislation will affect our youth the most. A House analysis found that in November of 2016, 3.3 million Floridians were enrolled in the SNAP program and, of those 3.3 million, 1.8 million were children.
The vote to remove the basic needs of low-income Floridians is, quite frankly, an assault on the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans.
Of the Democrats who voted against the bill, Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) said:
‘Let’s not be taking food off people’s tables.’
Rep. Bobby DuBose (D-Fort Lauderdale) said:
‘We’re picking winners and losers when we’re dealing with folks who are low income. At the end of the day, poor is poor.’
Rep. Cynthia Stafford (D-Miami) echoed a similar sentiment, saying:
‘Food is a basic need, and hunger is a real problem.’
Once again, Republicans have gotten things totally backwards, and Democrats are left to point out the total inhumane nature of their latest bill. Has it become the GOP’s mission to ‘Make America Hungry Again?’
Feature Image via Getty Images/The Washington Post/Contributor.