According to reports from numerous news outlets, President Trump is considering a rule that will allow states to require mandatory drug testing for Food Stamp recipients. This is part of a plan by conservatives in Congress to significantly reduce the number of people on SNAP benefits. There is a strong belief in conservative circles that most people on EBT are freeloaders who just want to live off the government while they indulge in habits such as drug addiction. The idea is that the prospect of having to be drug tested to receive food stamps will discourage a lot drug testing food stamps recipients, it will prevent these freeloaders from taking advantage of government benefits.
Food Stamps Numbers have been falling
Since Trump took office, the number of people collecting food stamps has declined by more than two million. According to this report, data released by the Department of Agriculture show that the number of participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), dropped to 42,182,443 for 2017 – a decline of 2,036,920 from the 2016 total of 44,219,363. However, that’s not the full story.
Conservatives like to paint a picture that blames President Obama for the increase in people on food stamps. However, 14.7 million people were added to the food-stamp rolls during George W. Bush’s time in office. By comparison, the net gain under Obama was 13.4 million. The increase was due to the great recession, and as the unemployment rate continues to go down, it is expected that the number of people requiring food stamps will go down too. This started while President Obama was still in office, as shown by the chart below.
However, conservatives are frustrated that there are still too many people on food stamps, hence the introduction of the idea to drug test food stamps recipients, to further push the numbers down.
Does Drug Testing Food Stamps Recipients Save Money?
According to a report by ThinkProgress, which looked at data from seven states that implemented programs to drug test food stamps recipients – Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah — it was not worth the money spent. In fact, the report showed that those applying for food stamps in these states actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent. Therefore the millions of dollars spent by these states to drug test welfare and food stamps recipients did not bring about the level of savings that the proponents were hoping to get. The images below for the state of Oklahoma and Missouri demonstrates the point.
Who will be affected by Trump’s Drug Testing Plan?
President Trump’s proposal will apply mostly to food stamps applicants who are able-bodied adults without dependents, also called ABAWDs. There are currently about 4.2 million able-bodied adults without dependents receiving food stamps. If Trump’s plan is implemented, it will impact about 5% of participants in the food stamps program.
The truth of the matter is that this is really about conservatives trying to show their base that they are doing something about getting people who are lazy off the food stamps rolls. The reality is that majority of people on food stamps actually need the help. That’s because when you dig down through the data, you will find that most households receiving SNAP have a working adult in that house. Which means that they are just not making enough to be able to afford the basic necessities, including food.
What do you think about President Trump’s plan to require some food stamps recipients to go through drug testing to get their benefit? Tell us in the comments section below.
Kwame Kuadey writes about personal finance and the social safety net. His career started in banking but he caught the entrepreneurial bug and has spent the last decade building successful businesses, including an Inc. 500 Company.
Kwame believes everyone has the power to improve their quality of life by seeking knowledge and taking action.
In 2012, Kwame founded Empower Media to help low-income households improve their financial situation.
His expertise is in topics relevant to low-income households, including government benefits and assistance, banking products, access to credit, plus tools & resources to help reduce income volatility and build wealth.
Kwame has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Washington Post, ABC, and NPR.
Sunday 13th of May 2018
Sunday 13th of May 2018