WE'RE among those who've cheered efforts to improve the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Recent reforms have largely focused on ensuring that children in abusive homes are removed when truly necessary, and that children taken into state custody are protected. We still support those efforts.
But in other areas, recent actions by DHS give reason for concern, particularly the agency's apparent political activism regarding the federal food stamp program.
Last week, the agency issued a press release noting the impending end of 2009 federal stimulus increases in the food stamp program. The tone of the release was alarmist; some arguments put forth verged on parody.
The release declared that many Oklahomans getting food stamps could “see their food budgets significantly impacted” (emphasis added). The agency claimed the cuts would result in the loss of “21 meals per month” for a family of four.
Actual numbers hardly justify that draconian billing. The hypothetical family of four is one “with no income.” The actual cut will be $36 for that family, which translates into a cut of 30 cents per day per person in a 30-day month.
Succentto Jackson, a 34-year-old mother of five children in Oklahoma City, is among those who will be affected. Her food stamp benefits previously totaled $659 per month. While the benefit reduction for her family of six may be larger than the cuts facing DHS's hypothetical family of four, it will hardly wipe out benefit payments.
The agency's alarmism drew a rebuke from Jonathan Small, fiscal policy director for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank. Small noted the 2009 federal stimulus increase in the food stamp program “was known to be temporary when it was passed. No one should have been relying on this stimulus bump for the long term, because it was temporary.”
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