The Los Angeles Times has an interesting, and for me as a California native and resident, disappointing article about state participation in the federal food stamp program. Here I am, a die-hard Progressive, so proud to be living in a blue state, and suddenly-- *sound of brakes screeching*...
Liberal California discourages eligible people from signing up for food stamps at rates conservative activists elsewhere envy. Only about half of the Californians who qualify for help get it.
That stands in contrast to other states, including some deeply Republican ones, that enroll 80% to 90% of those with incomes low enough to qualify. [...]
While the federal government pays the bill, states get an economic boost from more people with money to spend on groceries.
Cash for food is so close to free money for states that several, such as Florida, with a Republican-controlled Legislature and a conservative GOP governor, pay contractors to scour the landscape for people to enroll in the program.
Yet we hear conservatives badmouthing food stamp recipients all over the Tee Vee Machine.
Not that the low rate of enrollment is purely intentional on California's part, it's not. But unfortunately, the result is millions aren't getting the help they need, plus hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money are going unused.
Some of the problems with enrollment include insane paperwork requirements, "inhospitable" county benefits offices, and confusing online applications. Even worse, some of those who do qualify get rejected, because agencies are understaffed, so they can't process applications.
And some who are eligible don't even know they are.
Other hurdles, however, involve a problem that affects much of California's government: the outmoded and inefficient data-intake systems the state uses to process applications. Different county agencies use different software programs, which are often incompatible with one another.
California requires applicants to produce bank statements, utility bills, day-care receipts and, until Jerry Brown put a stop to it, fingerprints. Immigrants were fingerprinted, even those who were here legally, but were deterred because they worried that they would be flagged by immigration authorities.
California also has a lifetime ban on food stamps for anyone convicted of drug dealing.
I'll end with this frustratingly mind-boggling Not-So-Fun Fact:
...Nobody expects California to reach a participation rate of 92% anytime soon. That figure comes from conservative Tennessee, where Republicans control the governor's office and both legislative chambers.