USDA needs to be cautious on food stamp changes

Published 9:17 am Friday, June 8, 2012

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment until July on rules it has proposed to help states combat fraud in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (food stamp) Program.

Federal and state officials should not dismiss concerns raised by organizations, such as the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, that see firsthand the unintended impact of regulations on the poor and the agencies that serve them.

The food stamp program is widely acknowledged as an effective safety-net program. …

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Still, food stamp fraud amounts to about $750 million a year, accounting roughly for 1 percent of the program’s cost. That is not small change, to be sure. The funds could feed quite a few more hungry people. …

Federal officials are correct that it is essential to protect the integrity of the safety-net program and that no level of abuse is acceptable.

All the same, Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of Ohio’s foodbank association, speaks for the poor and for caution when she points out that extensive paperwork and rigorous eligibility vetting already deter a portion of eligible poor people from participating and that the rule could pose additional administrative burdens on county Job and Family Services already hamstrung by budget cuts.

Akron Beacon Journal


Cutting Army forces could impact people’s futures

With combat operations in Iraq at an end and the U.S. presence in Afghanistan winding down, a lot of soldiers are marching home. These cutbacks, which began last year, have consequences.

The active-duty Army is slashing its forces from 570,000 at the height of the Iraq war to a planned 490,000 in 2017. …

The Army also is much more selective in recruiting. At the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, recruits with records of misdemeanors and even felonies were accepted. Last year, the Army took no recruits with misconduct convictions or drug or alcohol issues. …

A leaner Army won’t harm national security. But it is fair to conclude that some well-behaved kids who have dreamed of being in the Army may not get the chance to serve. And kids with troubled pasts will not be able to redeem themselves in its disciplined environment.

It is good that a decade of war is ending, that the Army is raising its standards, and that it is saving money in an era of soaring deficits.

Yet as Johnny and Jane comes marching home today, when jobs are still few, an asterisk must be added to some of the hurrahs they may hear on their arrival.

The (Toledo) Blade