America never claimed to have eradicated poverty. But the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal assistance program that provides low-income families with support to buy groceries in the form of food stamps, has been a basic source of livelihood for 38 million Americans. However, the pandemic has made wages more volatile. And proving eligibility for US citizen bonuses has become more complicated. The danger is losing it. And go hungry.
A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis found that American households with irregular incomes are less likely to access the federal nutrition assistance program. According to economists, households whose income fluctuates near the eligibility threshold are 40% less likely to access food stamps. In the United States today, unpredictable income is very common. According to the study, nearly 20% of households experienced a 25% or more drop in income by 2020. Seasonal workers and wage earners in the hospitality and service sectors are more likely to have their hours drastically reduced or to be in precarious employment.
Snap is one of the most effective programs that helps keep families out of poverty by giving them a food budget so they can pay rent, bills and medical bills, as well as fresh or frozen food. Debit card payments depend on wages: Snap Dollars increase when the family’s monthly income drops, for example if a parent loses a job, while overtime and meal vouchers are reduced when wages rise. Beneficiaries must report increases and decreases in their monthly income, which becomes difficult when wages vary greatly from month to month. Welfare claimants may fear making documentation errors because providing false information about their income can lead to severe fines and penalties.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, the Snap application and income verification process was so complicated that the Department of Human Services opened a call center to help people with documents. One staff member said hungry residents can feel overwhelmed by the many steps they have to take to get food. In New York City, the Human Resources Department failed to process 40% of applications on time last year.
The Department of Human Services emphasized that only eligible applicants will receive the benefits. So adjustments are necessary if there is a change in a family’s income or repeated changes in salary. “We aim to make the process of using Snap Case or making changes as efficient and transparent as possible,” Gavin Lesnick, director of the Office of Communications and Community Engagement, told UsaToday.
However the problem remains. In America, bureaucracy threatens to complicate the lives of those struggling with poverty.
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