Lately, there has been a lot of news about modifying what types of items recipients are allowed to buy with their food stamps and welfare benefits. There seems always to be a concern about people buying sodas and candy with their food stamps and about buying liquor and cigarettes with their welfare cash.
I admit, I have bought some candy and cookies with mine, but for the most part, I buy healthy food. Is it wrong for people down on their luck to have a Butterfinger or a bag of Frosted Circus Animal Cookies? I say no! One thing that people don't think about when they think about food stamps is that a large percentage of recipients are homeless. There are lots of rules about what you cannot buy, including any hot food or fast food. Because homeless people rarely have stoves or microwaves or refrigerators, this puts a huge limit on what they can eat. They have to buy expensive pre-wrapped prepared sandwiches, salads, and other cold items available in the deli section of the grocery store. You know those hot rotisserie chickens you like to buy for an easy meal tonight? Homeless people can't buy those with food stamps. That's why the store also carries cold ones. Some stores, like Target, won't let you put any deli items on your food stamps. This is where the welfare benefits come in handy. Welfare in Sacramento County is about $200 per month after the $40 deduction for Indigent Medical Care and the $10 deduction for a bus pass (whether or not you need one). $200 is not a lot of money to buy all of your personal care items like shampoo, toilet paper, deoderant, wet wipes for those necessary spit baths; your occassional need for hot food not covered by food stamps; your cell phone bill so you can stay in touch with friends and family, doctors and creditors; and for those lucky enough to own a car, gas and insurance. Seriously! Could you make $200 stretch that far? So, yes, sometimes people just gotta have their cigarettes, and some desperate souls must have their alcohol, but for the most part, welfare recipients are buying things that you buy everyday without batting an eyelash.
Okay, I will step down from my soapbox now. Just wanted to give the folks concerned about misuse of welfare a little reality check. Please remember this next time you bite into a Snickers or have a glass of cabernet with dinner.