They’re from the government and they’re here to help, unintended consequences be damned. STIMULUS WATCH: $25 check may cost you food stamps
WASHINGTON – When President Barack Obama increased unemployment benefits as part of his economic stimulus, he also made some Americans ineligible for hundreds of dollars a month in food stamps.
Under the economic recovery plan, laid-off workers have seen a $25 weekly bump in their unemployment checks as part of a broad expansion of benefits for the poor. But the law did not raise the income cap for food stamp eligibility, so the extra money has pushed some people over the limit.
Laid-off workers and state officials are only now realizing the quirk, a consequence of pushing a $787 billion, 400-page bill through Congress and into law in three weeks.
And for people hurt by the change, there’s no way around it.
Washington says, tough luck:
“We were told we were interpreting the food stamp regulations correctly,” said Roger Munns, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services. “Once you’re over the income limit, regardless of the reason, you’re no longer eligible.”
Congress knew about this potential result:
Lawmakers crafting the stimulus knew this would become a problem, said Stacy Dean, director of food assistance policy at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. They could have headed it off by raising the income tax or declaring that the $25 stimulus checks would not affect food stamp eligibility. Both were expensive options that could have forced states to reprogram their computer systems.
But more importantly, hashing out those details would have taken time.
“People were aware of this but, as you recall, the stimulus was moving along and then it was passed in about a day,” Dean said. “There was not a lot of policy discussion on this.”
I have an idea. Let’s put these same people in charge of health care, the financial industry, the automaker business, energy production, the insurance industry…oh, wait.