Commentary: Kansas has no excuses for food stamp debacle

The Kansas City StarFebruary 6, 2012 

Kansas is running out of excuses.

Social and Rehabilitation Services officials are digging in their heels, defending a change in how food stamps are allotted.

Kansas used to handle the benefits in a morally responsible manner.

Now, hundreds if not thousands of U.S.-born children have been severed from aid.

Let that one soak in. Children are being harmed.

Despite some twisted jargon, this has no impact on illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants cannot receive food stamps.

This is where the remarks, the dodging, of some officials is especially galling.

At issue is how benefits are calculated when a household includes an illegal immigrant. Such families are termed “mixed status,” with some people illegally present, along with children who are U.S. citizens.

Both household income and size figure in the formulas. The old way, Kansas didn’t pretend that the illegal adults didn’t exist.

Now they pretend. They count these immigrants’ income, but don’t allow for the fact they are part of the household tally.

From Oct. 1 through December, more than 1,000 households lost benefits.

This is bad policy generated by people not attuned to the full consequences of their actions. Or it’s a worse situation, and they’re willingly orchestrating this result.

These kids are U.S. citizens. Their nutritional needs matter.

Forty-six other states have figured it out. They use policies that keep with federal mandates against giving anyone illegally in the country a benefit. But they don’t punish American-born children.

The simple solution of capping benefits in such families has been suggested. Yet this week, state officials held to the falsehood that only two options exist: the old way and the new way.

At one point, officials argued how this was a fiscal issue. They said they were just trying to save Kansas taxpayers money.

But that’s not true. The money is federal flow-through dollars. Numerous concerned politicians have noted this. They correctly note that Kansas is harming its own economy by refusing to allow the extra federal dollars to be spent here. Explain that to the local grocer.

Next came the assertion that a relatively few number of people are affected, compared to total program enrollment.

OK. But shouldn’t that be a reason to revert to the old way?

Some officials keep touting that the new method is fairer to everyone.

How is it fair that low-income children, U.S. citizens, residents of Kansas, are being told that their hunger doesn’t matter?

A convoluted reply surely will be dredged up soon.

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