There are days when I go to the grocery store and leave with the feeling that eating everyday is overrated. I assumed that sentiment was becoming universal.
However, some people in the check out lines still manage to crack smiles when it’s time to pay. I thought the source of their giddiness stemmed from having plenty of cash to spare on food. But, as I watch their bill totals shrink from the amount needed to fill up a Chevy Tahoe to the cost of chewing gum, I realize they are grinning because the government is picking up the bulk of their grocery bill.
Today, the government revealed that one in 10 Americans now receive food stamps.
Granted, qualifying for food stamps is no accomplishment, but the faces of those seeking assistance are changing. No longer will you solely find the stereotypical single mother with one too many kids or the lazy, uneducated, good-for-nothing leech looking for aid.
Now more than ever it’s struggling middle-class families asking the government for support. Unfortunately, many discover that their savings, severance packages, and unemployment benefits prevent them from getting additional help.
Despite the federal economic stimulus package giving states the funds to provide as much as a 14% increase to those already receiving food stamp benefits it’s becoming more difficult for others to qualify.
Some government officials are calling for temporary state and federal waivers of eligibility requirements for cash aid, food stamps, and housing benefits.
Others are actively pursuing ways to tighten requirements.
West Virginia state lawmaker Craig Blair has introduced a bill to require random drug testing for benefits. He lays out his case for this measure on a Web site called notwithmytaxdollars.com.
And some lawmakers want to monitor the type of products you buy with government money.
While the issue of whether or not we should amend the requirements to receive government aid is debatable, there are plenty of people willing to pee in a cup and forgo drinking soda if they can get help. Yet, these people continue to be ignored by a system designed only to assist the very poor.
Should the eligibility requirements be changed to provide to more in need? Moreover, if you learned that you now qualified for aid, would you want it?
I always had this stigma about receiving government assistance, but the price of chicken is getting a wee bit expensive and I can’t go back to Spam. I’m down for EBT if the government will give it to me.
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Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.