Marion Brothers

Marion Brothers

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Logjam in Texas Federal Food Stamps vs. GOP Priorities

When I first met Congressman Michael C. Burgess, I referred him to Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) who once wrote: “At nature’s great table, there are no plates for some.” The same is true in healthcare.

By Eddie Griffin

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Except that a family is destitute and hungry, no one would understand the hell poor people go through just to qualify and receive food stamps in Texas. At the grassroots level, we have always known. We have had to assist welfare recipients in navigating the system- a system which the Star-Telegram calls “broken”.

Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs says, “It's almost like a system that time forgot for a while.”

That would be an understatement, considering the federal food stamp program has had problems from the very beginning. Food stamps were once extorted for sex from women applying for it. Supposedly, a little sex would expedite the process. This case created a scandal in Fort Worth, Texas a few years back.

But generally speaking, the Food Stamp program has been stigmatized as a “welfare program”, with stereotypes and images, of lazy poor people. Anyone who understands the evolution of the Medieval Poor Laws would understand how that image came to be.

Applying for food stamps in Texas can be quite a chore, according to a new state auditor's report.

Need to ask a basic question? Forget the phone. Workers often don't have time to answer questions by phone and their voice mailboxes tend to be full, the report says.

Instead, applicants "make unnecessary trips to a local office, in which they sometimes sit for hours just to ask a question or submit a document," says the report released Tuesday by State Auditor John Keel.

"Crowded lobbies, long waits, and delays in eligibility determinations clearly resulted in frustrated clients," the report said.

The report describes an inefficient system in which 80 percent of cases are kept on paper and a lack of experienced workers is contributing to problems processing applications accurately and within the 30 days required by the federal government. It recommends using technology such as automated kiosks and allowing applicants to check the status of cases online, an option the state now makes available only to certain applicants.

But now we have 3.3 million mouths to feed in Texas, as a result of the Great Recession. It is no longer about “them lazy folks”. It is about us “hungry folks”.

The federal food stamp program today may not be as heartless and corrupt as in the past. But it is old and antiquated, and frustrating to navigate. 1970s technology ran the system. Wherein they have since called in non-profit food banks, churches, and community organizations to assist in clearing the backlog, they have still not address its structural problem of antiquity.

Charles Kuffner of Offthekuff reports “Food stamp application backlog to be cleared by April

The commission had projected it would clear the backlog by February. That didn’t happen. Though the backlog disappeared in the Tyler, Beaumont, Austin, El Paso and Edinburg areas, there were still 16,000 applications in February for which decisions were past due, Suehs said. About 90 percent of that backlog was in the Houston and Dallas areas.

Suehs now expects the Lubbock, Abilene and San Antonio regions to clear the backlog by the end of March, he told members of a joint Senate-House panel overseeing the state’s system for enrolling Texans in programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. And he expects the Dallas and Houston areas to be back on track by the end of April.

A Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial, “Help these hungry Texans”, draws a sharp contrast in priorities of our political leaders:

Some of our state officials have been acting tough by bad-mouthing Washington, resisting federal aid in some areas and preparing lawsuits to fight recently enacted legislation. If only they could devote that much attention and energy to fixing a broken system right here at home.

These are very tough times, and many families are having to ask for help from the state for the first time in their lives.

Texas should be able to give them the help they need to have food on the table without unnecessary roadblocks caused by a food stamp system that badly needs an overhaul.

COMMENTARY by Eddie Griffin

Of those who are “bad-mouthing Washington” and “preparing lawsuits to fight recently enacted legislation” is Congressman Michael C. Burgess, 26th District of Texas.

It is customary to think that President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and War on Poverty was a failure, that it created a dependent welfare class of people. Food stamp recipients were cast into that mold.

Now while Texas is trying to do good by its new welfare class, Burgess and Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott are waging another battle against the poor, trying to undo healthcare legislation that new life to babies born as “blue babies” (a pre-existing condition).

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and 12 attorneys general from other states have sued in a Florida federal court to block implementation of the healthcare legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law last week.

The Texas Attorney General overstepped his bounds. Governor Sam Houston was against joining the Confederacy, but Sam Houston, Jr. led a coup against his Texas governor father, usurped by a minority interest of slave holder of 25% property ownership. This is how authority has been usurped in Texas, not once, but many times.

What is ignored is “the people’s interest”. Always it is political party interest sounded in the courts. But there is an amicus in the people’s interest to controvert this lawsuit to undo the healthcare bill.

Cost expectations are far lower than the Attorney General anticipate. We have a global human interest in the needs and protections of the unborn. Let the U.S. Supreme Court rule as it will. We have the World Court, and international option on our side.

Eddie Griffin (BASG)

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