Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Christian Response to Gov. Corbett's Plan to Asset Test Food-stamps

A article came out a couple of days ago in the Inquirer stating that Gov. Tom Corbett plans to reinstate asset testing for food-stamps in the state of Pennsylvania.  Anyone under sixty receiving food-stamps would be limited to having $2000 dollars in assets, excluding one's home, first car and retirement benefits.  Folks over sixty would would be limited to having $3,250 in assets.  While this measure is purportedly part of a larger effort to reduce waste, fraud and abuse across all state programs, it simply won't do so.  As the Inquirer article stated, Pennsylvania has received rewards for how efficient their food-stamp system is, with the program's fraud rated being an estimated one-tenth of one percent.  As food-stamps are federally funded, the only expense Pennsylvania incurs at all is in the program's administration.  While the state's asset test will reduce the number of food-stamp recipients by about two percent, thereby theoretically reducing administration costs, it will cost more money to add an expensive step to the approval process.  Furthermore, every dollar of federal funds spent on food-stamps adds $1.73 to the state's GDP.

As the asset test really won't reduce waste, fraud and abuse (but will hurt the state's economy), the Corbett administration's move simply isn't practical.  Instead, it is either a politically or ideologically motivated attack on the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.  Young families on food stamps won't be able save up money to get out of poverty.  Poor elderly folks won't be able save up enough for proper funeral expenses.  The Corbett administration is using a $2000 limit that was set back in 1980.  At very least, the asset limit could be adjusted for inflation, which would put it close to $5500

As roughly a quarter of state food-stamp recipients reside in the city of Philadelphia, the local faith community needs to rally around encouraging Governor Corbett to drop the asset test plan, maintaining the circle of protection around our most vulnerable fellow parishioners and neighbors.  Besides everything Christ taught about caring for the poor, the Incarnation itself points to why Christians are called to feed the hungry.  The simple fact that God was fully incarnate in the person of Jesus points to a need for us to respect all humanity.  If God thought humanity was worth Christ being fully human and fully divine, shouldn't all humanity be worth being fed?

So what can you do?  Tell your friends and neighbors, write to the editor of your local newspaper about the issue.  Talk with your pastor to see how your congregation might engage in advocacy efforts against this attack on the poor.  Put a phone call into the governor's office or even plan a visit to Harrisburg with your congregation.  I just put a call in myself and I promise, the receptionist is friendly.  While the advocacy community is still figuring out how to work with the issue, Lutheran Advocacy Ministries of PA can help you get started as well.  Thanks so much for reading and your efforts to maintain the circle of protection around Pennsylvania's most vulnerable citizens.

God's peace,

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