Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More on Cash Benefit Access Restrictions

There have been a ton of bills introduced this year at the state level restricting where recipients of various cash benefits can access their cash. At last count that list was over 40 and growing. There is a good rundown of exactly where those bills have been introduced, and what they seek do to. To access that list, go to www.chaddsfordplanning.com and look in the lower left corner for the blog "The Lobster Shift." You'll find analysis on the bills. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Retailer Fraud

Just posted to the EFTA website: Commentary to USDA by EFTA and its eGovernment Payments Council on proposed fixes to the problem of retailer fraud in the SNAP, formerly food stamp, program. Get it at www.efta.org. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

Oh oh. When congressmen start dueling with Biblical quotes we're all in trouble. A couple of days ago, listening to satellite radio, I happened to catch that old Kay Kyser World War II big band song, "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition." I thought about that this morning when I read an article from NBC News on the current debate. "A heated battle is brewing on Capitol Hill over cuts to the food stamp program," said the lead, "with lawmakers quoting Bible verses at each other and benefits for millions of people hanging in the balance." You could almost see the gathering black clouds and hear the guns in the far distance. All they were missing was Edward R. Murrow.

Not to make light of this, but we're talking about finding a spending number we can all live with. This used to be pretty routine in lawmaking. A few overwrought speeches from the floor, a couple of bourbons in the cloak room, and a new highway somewhere, and there  you go. Off to the president for his signature.

Not so much anymore. In the case of the latest (emphasis on the late) Farm Bill, we're talking about the House and Senate trying to bridge a $16 billion spending gap. That's like trying to jump the Snake River Canyon with a BMX.

If you believe the Senate's version, the House proposal would expose two million people to untold misery by throwing them off the program. Or, they should never have been on the program in the first place and we don't have the money to keep them there, if you favor the House's approach. Either way, this gap has to be closed.

Sticking the SNAP budget in the Farm Bill used to make sense  because it gave lawmakers safe harbor for their other spending initiatives in the bill. Maybe that's not the case anymore. It has been suggested that given the wrangling about the Farm Bill it might be time to break out the SNAP budget from the battle over ag subsidies and fight them separately.

All I know is that when lawmakers start thinking it's their job to do the Lord's work, we're all in trouble. I think the Almighty's can handle what's on His plate. I think with a Farm Bill months overdue and a budget process that's not worthy of the name anymore lawmakers should stick to their own work and figure out a way to close this gap and get a deal done. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Farmers Markets

A bill introduced earlier this year in the Florida legislature would have gone a long way towards putting some muscle behind the drive to expand SNAP EBT to farmers markets in the Sunshine State. Senate Bill 778, titled "Transactions in Fresh Produce Markets," would have required farmers market operators and managers to let third party organizations operate EBT systems in those markets. The bill apparently died in committee and is off the calendar. 

No word on whether the bill's sponsor, Sen. Geri Thompson (D-Orange County), will reintroduce.