The number of people receiving Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits fell to its lowest level since August 2011, according to monthly numbers released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In March 2015, the most recent month for which enrollment numbers have been published, 45,641,762 individuals received SNAP benefits.
Monthly food stamp enrollment declined each month since June 2014, the last month enrollment numbers increased. Since then, 813,319 individuals and 204,463 families have exited the program.
Many Still Trapped on SNAP
Heritage Foundation Policy Analyst Rachel Sheffield says entitlement programs such as SNAP use the wrong standards for measuring success, making it difficult for people to return to self-sufficiency.
“The success of the program is measured by how many people receive benefits,” Sheffield said. “By that measure, the program has been quite successful. This is a faulty goal, however. The goal of welfare should be to promote self-sufficiency by addressing the causes, not just the consequences, of poverty.”
Sheffield says the government should refer to past reforms as a guide for helping people return to self-sufficiency.
“The food stamps program should be reformed to include a work requirement for able-bodied adults, requiring them to work, prepare for work, or look for work in exchange for receiving benefits,” Sheffield said. “This was the type of reform that was put into the 1996 welfare reform legislation, which transformed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program into the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.”
Proven Methods for Self-Sufficiency
Work requirements are proven to help people take charge of their lives, says Sheffield.
“After the work requirements were implemented, welfare rolls dropped by half, employment among low-income individuals increased, and child poverty declined,” Sheffield said. “A work requirement serves as a gatekeeper to ensure that means-tested welfare assistance goes to those truly in need and encourages individuals towards work.”
Cost of Poverty War
Ross Kaminsky, a senior fellow for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says decades of entitlement spending have provided very few tangible positive results.
“Generally speaking, the war on poverty has been a failure, or at least not a success, and it’s come at the cost of trillions of dollars,” Kaminsky said. “If an employee of yours did something over and over for years without producing a good result, wouldn’t you tell them, ‘Hey, this clearly does not work; try something else?’
“It’s only in government where repeated failure is rewarded with more money,” said Kaminsky. “That has to stop.”
Getting Government Out of the Way
Kaminsky says making it easier for businesses to hire entry-level workers would help more people than massive government programs.
“Eliminating minimum wage regulations could help low-skill workers get entry-level jobs at which they can learn skills that would lead to better-paid work,” Kaminsky said. “The current push to substantially increase minimum wages will be a disaster for the poorest of the poor, at least those who want to feel the self-respect that comes with having a job.”
Kaminsky says getting the government out of the “business” of helping people would allow charities to help people more effectively.
“Finally, and I realize this is a libertarian utopian thought and something that will never come to pass, we should end the welfare state for all but those who truly can’t take care of themselves and instead have private charities take over that work, as they used to before government crowded them out,” Kaminsky said.
“Private charities would be far more effective than bureaucrats in helping the poor,” Kaminsky said. “They care more, they measure results better, and they adapt to new best practices better.”
Michael Bates ([email protected]) writes from Tulsa, Oklahoma.