Because the Trump Administration is hell-bent on inventing new ways to fuck with marginalized groups, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia has decided to be especially cruel to food stamp recipients.
As nearly 8,000 people have had their SNAP benefits rescinded between April and October—nearly a 2o-fold increase from 2017.
Also of note, from October 2017 through March 2018, the state removed an average of 356 people a month from food stamps for failing to maintain gainful employment.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program requires recipients without children over the age of 18 to work at least 20 hours a week or go to school in order to be eligible for food stamps. Georgia officials have been using a new data management system — dubbed the “Georgia Gateway” — to help identify people who don’t qualify.
“We have more data elements available to us with this system than we have had with any of our other eligibility systems,” explained Jon Anderson, of the state’s Division of Family and Children Services, which handles SNAP.
“We are more confident in the system being able to identify ABAWDs [able-bodied adults without dependents] than we were in earlier systems,” he told AJC.
Approximately 71 percent of SNAP recipients are families with dependent children, while a third have relatives who are either elderly or disabled.
25-year-old Covington resident Miraco Belcher detailed his own struggles with this new status quo:
Belcher had worked a series of warehouse jobs until he was injured in an auto accident, fracturing his spine. Since the accident, he said he suffers seizures, especially around bright or flashing lights, making it hard for him to work.
Belcher applied for disability payments through Social Security, but the adjudication process for those benefits can take years. In August, he was tagged as “able bodied” and unemployed, so the state removed him from the SNAP program.
“I’ve been without stamps for two months now. It hurts,” he said in an interview in October. “I can’t work and I can’t come up with money for groceries.”
Belcher was baffled by the notice he received from the state ending the benefit.
“If I could work, I wouldn’t need those stamps,” he said. “I just don’t really understand it.”
Thankfully Belcher’s benefits were reinstated last month after his primary care physician vouched for him. But due to financial limitations or other obstacles, countless others aren’t nearly as lucky.
“I’m not sure what the clients are supposed to do when they get these letters (from DFCS),” said attorney David Deganian, who is representing Belcher in his disability claim. “Most doctors don’t want to do that unless they have a chronological (record of) treatment.”
Meanwhile many recipients who have been labeled as able-bodied say that while they’ve tried to secure jobs, there just aren’t any available in their area.
“People who use SNAP who can work, do work,” said senior policy analyst Alex Carmardelle, who works at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. “If you are not working and you are receiving SNAP it’s because of a serious reason.”