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Food Stamps or SNAP (Supplemental Temporary Assistance Program) is a much easier and less lengthy evaluation. The SNAP manual for South Dakota is available here. For my evaluation I am using  the guidelines for Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDS) because that is the category I fall into and because it makes the most sense that a social safety net program would start there. In my opinion, if you do not have the basic necessities met for yourself, it is cruel to be thinking about raising a child.

As a brief note, it costs about $8,000 for a pregnancy and that includes prenatal care and hospital stay. If you don’t have $8,000 for the pregnancy and the down payment for a house plus enough savings to pay the mortgage for a year after the home purchase, you should not be considering pregnancy. Obviously, there are people already in these programs with children and the inadequacy of these programs for a single adult to meet their basic needs highlights the need for reform and re-evaluation. Remember, these are social safety nets meaning they are meant to prevent you from falling deeper and deeper into poverty, they are not permanent tarps hanging over the spiked pit of poverty.

The Food Stamp program was renamed SNAP to give people dignity and the food stamps were converted to an EBT card which serves two purposes. One purpose is to give people dignity and have the card resemble a debit or credit card (note: if you are buying food on a credit card, go to the government assistance office now and explain your situation so they can get you into budgeting classes right away). The second reason is to comply with the Paper Reduction Act which is government legislation that helps the environment and simplifies government processes thereby making government services more efficient and easier to use.

The Food Stamp program guidelines are set at the state level. It is $1,316 in South Dakota and $1,307 in California. South Dakota clearly states that the amounts are proportional to the federal poverty line, which honestly needs to be increased to $20k a year  or $1,666 a month for a single adult.  Considering the cheapest habitable places in the USA run between $600 and $750 a month, that leaves you less than $1,000 a month for food (hence this evaluation), transportation, hygiene, educational costs, emergency fund (fired, work closed down, injured/can’t work) and retirement savings. By standardizing these programs.

Since the Food Stamp program is a federal program and the income limits are tied to the federal poverty line, it also makes sense that anybody, with income below the federal poverty level would be eligible. If the federal poverty level were raised to $20k a year for a single adult living on their own, that means anybody bringing home less then $1,666 per month would be eligible including adults wanting to move out of their parents home and renting a room from them when they turn 18. It would also include SSI recipients who get an average income of $800 per month. As of June 2019, California has extended food stamps to SSI recipients.

In South Dakota, a ABAWDS is eligible for food stamps for a total of 180 days in a 3 year period. All SNAP recipients should be eligible for food stamps long as their income is below $1,666 and retirement accounts should always be contributed to after taxes. You can read the South Dakota ABAWDS guidelines on pages 238 to page 264 of the SNAP manual. This is a federal program so it should be standardized.

In California, you are eligible for Food Stamps for 9 months at a time and for 9 months of every 12 month period. In Los Angeles, this is tied directly to GR. The eligibility should be standardized so that you are eligible anytime you have less than $1,666 in net pay. Net pay would be standardized as gross pay minus federal taxes minus state taxes. Take home pay would be your net pay minus automatic contributions to retirement accounts, unions or medical expenses and all automatic contributions should be adjustable with a 30 day notice.

Increasing the Federal Poverty line is absolutely necessary since $1012 in net pay only leaves you with $304 dollars for rent where rent is 30% of your net pay in accordance with HUD guidelines for section 8. With the federal poverty line set at $1,666 per month, 30% of net pay going to rent means you have at least $500 for rent. It means you can pay your own utilities, transportation, educational costs at a community college and it will be less likely that you will need any other subsidies besides housing and SNAP.

In most communities outside a major metropolis, this means that your housing subside will only be $100 to $150 dollars per month and that it is very unlikely you will need SNAP. A $20,000 federal poverty line means employers paying at least $9.65 per hour for full time work will ensure their employees at least have their basic necessities met and if there employees need to cut their hours to attend college, it will not create a major burden on the federal, state or local budgets.

The final point in evaluating SNAP is what is the appropriate amount for a single adult. The majority of adults purchasing food only at grocery stores spend about $50 per week which covers a few pounds of meat, lots of vegetables, water, juices, milk and some snacks. This is purchasing lots of sale items and not going crazy with health food items. So $200 per month seems OK but grocery bills can be as high as $300 to $500 per month for adults bulking and working out at the gym a lot. Honestly, if you are in poverty, building huge muscles with money you don’t have should not be your top priority. So an upper limit of $225 to $250 seems adequate.

With housing and food stamps, someone a sample budget for people in poverty at the $20k a year level or less may look like this.

$1,666 Per Month Poverty Level Income Budget

Budget for someone at the new suggested poverty level of $20,000 a year or $1,666 a month. Housing subsidy is used because they are only paying 30% wages toward rent per HUD guidelines for affordability.
CategoryOut of PocketSubsidyTotal
Total$1,666$150$1,816
Rent$500$150$650
Utilities$90$0$90
Food$225$0$225
Medical Costs$52$0$52
Vehicle$125$0$125
Vehicle Insurance$90$0$90
Vehicle Fuel$120$0$120
School$150$0$150
Retirement Savings$200$0$200
Emergency Fund$75$0$75
Clothing/Shoes$39$0$39

A person might be eligible for SNAP with the above budget if they had a medical emergency causing them to go over their $52 a month medical budget , they were in a natural disaster that caused them to move to a new home, or had a vehicle completely breakdown. SNAP would work with HUD other safety net programs to evaluate their last 12 months budget and SNAP would be approved on a case by case basis.

$800 Per Month Poverty Level Income Budget

Budget for someone below the new suggested poverty level of $20,000 a year or $1,666 a month. The goal here is to subsidize them up to the poverty level.
CategoryOut of PocketSubsidyTotal
Total$800$866$1666
Rent$240$410$650
Utilities$45$45$90
Food$0$225$225
Medical Costs$26$26$52
Vehicle$100$25$125
Vehicle Insurance$90$0$90
Vehicle Fuel$95$25$120
School$75$75$150
Retirement Savings$100$0$100
Emergency Fund$0$35$35
Clothing/Shoes$29$0$39

In this second example more costs are subsidized, the participant gets full SNAP benefits but they are forced to cut retirement savings in half and stop contributing to their emergency fund. They get an emergency fund subsidy but it isn’t given to them until they “exit” the safety net program. Their clothing budget is also reduced with no subsidy and their is no subsidy for vehicle insurance. They would also have a case worker manage their job placement and educational plan. From here, if they fail to meet budgeting guidelines, they will be moved to a Craigslist bedroom and the next step after that would be life in a homeless shelter.

 

It is important to consider the full budget of basic essentials when evaluating SNAP qualifications because all these programs should be tied to the federal poverty level for a single adult. The costs of maintaining a full grown adult also need to be evaluated fully before evaluation the safety net criteria for families, refugees, asylum seekers and foreigners in the US for school or business opportunities can begin.

It is important to note that USDA is the agency in charge of the SNAP program, as such, USDA should ensure there are enough farms near population centers, work with CDC to ensure crop health and work with DOT to ensure food distribution is done as efficiently as possible.

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