A week ago (late on a Friday afternoon, naturally), the Obama administration released food stamp enrollment figures for July. Despite millions of Americans finding work during the past several years, the data continued a national trend of little to no meaningful decline in enrollment.
Seasonally adjusted Household Survey employment is now 148.8 million, slightly above its prerecession November 2007 peak of 146.6 million. Meanwhile, current food stamp enrollment, at 45.5 million, is far greater than the 2007 average of 26.2 million. There is a small exception to this disturbing situation. It's in Maine, where enrollment has declined by over 20 percent since 2009. Those wondering why didn't find anything resembling a complete answer in a brief Associated Press report Tuesday (presented in full because of its brevity and for fair use and discussion purposes):
Note how this AP report, which was defensibly treated as a local story in the circumstances, refers to "one explanation for the drop" without identifying any other. That's indefensible. After all, the highly suspect national unemployment rate has also dropped significantly, while food stamp enrollment hasn't.
So why has Maine been successful in reducing food stamp dependency?
Maine food stamp enrollment drops under 200K
The (Governor Paul) LePage administration is giving itself a pat on the back, saying its welfare reforms are the reason why Maine's food stamp enrollment is at lowest in nearly four years.
The Department of Health and Human Services said tougher requirements for welfare along with a drop in unemployment have led to more Mainers supporting themselves.
... Some changes have been made to welfare eligibility, requiring single adults ages 18-24 to work at least 20 hours a week, volunteer 1 hour a day or attend classes to keep their benefits beyond three months.
"These welfare programs should be a temporary form of assistance. We should always be striving to help people back on to that pathway of employment to help support themselves on that next step," said Mayhew.
... Food stamp enrollment is expected to drop more once DHHS begins asset testing for some welfare recipients.
The state's press release makes two noteworthy points:
According to data from the Federal Nutrition Service (FNS), Maine ranked first in the nation for its reduction in food stamp dependency in 2014.
... the LePage Administration re-implemented the federal work requirement for able-bodied, 18-49 year old adults without dependents on food stamps, reducing dependency among that group from 15,500 to 1,800 in just 18 months.
The first point is that Maine's performance is the best in the land — if the goal is to redue dependency. One would think that other states might be interested in following Maine's lead. Based on results seen elsewhere, that's apparently not the case.
The second point is that any state can apparently "re-implement" the federal work requirement, which most if not all states suspended in the early stages of the recession, without getting anyone's permission. Clearly, most haven't. There's really no excuse not to "re-implement." There's definitely no excuse for food stamp enrollment to still be 70 percent higher than it was nine years ago.
The Associated Press, which deliberately limited its report to "one explanation" despite having other explanations dropped in their lap, clearly didn't want readers to know about any of this.
What's the AP got against people working instead of mooching?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.