Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What is Free Food Stamps? And How Important It Is

Few countries can boast the many opportunities that America has to offer. Here in America immigrants can arrive with very little and within a life time earn something worth leaving to their children and grand children. How many Americans need help to get there?
When I received my first pay check I was shocked by what had been taken from it. Where did that money go? Why couldn’t I keep it? There were so many things I could have done with what I had worked so hard to earn. There were movies to be seen, pizzas to be eaten, and of course new shoes to buy. I was angry that my money was torn from my paycheck with little regard to how I felt about it. All I have to do is walk down the street and I know my money is hard at work.
When I walk down my street I am not accosted by starving children digging through trash looking for their next meal. There aren’t any tiny cadavers lying in the street with sunken eyes and swollen bellies. I don’t see the children who go unnoticed in so many other countries because the poverty and despair is such a large problem that it overwhelms the senses and after sometimes numbs you to the truth. In our country children ride bikes, and play basketball. If they don’t have a hot meal at home they might have free or reduced lunch at school. They can have a birthday cake through food stamps. They can get immunizations with Medicaid. My hard earned money has saved lives, contributed to someone else’s health, fed a baby at night. My hard earned money has helped someone reach the next step on their ladder to success.
Food stamp, Medicaid and welfare recipients are often hard workers as well. Our military sends men and women away to defend their country on a salary that’s sometimes below poverty level for their family. These government benefit programs allow them to serve our country while we provide their families with the necessities of everyday life.
Disabilities make life more difficult for many people and a society that cares takes care of those who are struggling. Providing therapies and assistance to those in need keeps our country strong by allowing everyone to meet their full potential.
Of course, as with most things in life, nothing comes without a price. There are those out there who will take advantage. Food stamps can buy them steak and lobster while other hard workers pull together their change to buy Ramen Noodles. These programs can be more effective by setting certain conditions. Job training programs, daycare services, educational classes should be part of the services. A single mother making minimum wage would have a hard time finding a quality daycare that would not take up the majority of her paycheck. These services could be made more effective by tying it to income in a different way. Reward programs that help a person want to earn more instead of encouraging people to earn less to get more. Learn a new trade and get rewarded, finding a job earns you a bonus. We should help others reach the American dream, but should also be mindful of those who bleed the system.
I am proud that we live in a country where we take care of one another. Ours is a government of the people, for the people and by the people. I am proud of that tiny part of my check that is taken to ensure a child has their next meal, an expectant mother can give birth with the proper care, and an elderly woman can have her medicine. It’s what makes our country what it is today.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Food stamps and Children’s Health Insurance Program

Government programs such as food stamps and Medicaid are essential to the well being of many Americans’ everyday lives. Not only do programs provide security and support for who cannot take care of themselves, it gives U.S citizens and immigrants a second and sometimes first chance at life. For example, if a husband and father of three, whose wife is a stay at home mom, loses his job, what comes next for that family of five? Depending on how long the husband remains unemployed, this family’s quality of life has the potential to change dramatically. They risk losing their home and could potentially struggle to get food on the table. Food stamps and Medicaid will likely become crucial parts of this family’s life. As a nation, government aid is helping thousands of people to maintain a reasonable quality of life.

I live in a fairly wealthy and small suburb near Boise, Idaho. Seeing homeless or struggling men and women on the street is not a normal situation in my neighborhood, yet they are still there, and need our help. If I drive as little as eight miles down the road, there is a bridge downtown, under the freeway where many homeless men and women spend their days. On Sunday’s my friends and I will go downtown with a local church and feed the homeless. It is such a humbling experience and very intriguing to hear different people’s stories and situations. As an employee at a local food retailer, I see people with food stamps come in on a daily basis. Although there likely some who seem to abuse the food stamps program, a majority of people do not. It is necessary to make the food stamps program the best it possibly can be, for those who use it properly, here.

Current requirements for food stamps include a pre-screening test that asks questions such as, the number of people in the family applying, the living situation of the family, the names, ages and citizenship of everyone in the family, and any assets anyone in the family may have. To maximize the potential of the food stamp program, background checks and interviews should be required of all applicants. The background checks will not exempt people who have criminal records, but will take a look at the different situation and hopefully personalize the food stamp system for them. Once on food stamps (of any kind) people should have to prove they are actively looking for a job and trying to better their lives.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides low-cost or free healthcare to over 7 million children under the age of nineteen. This insurance is available to U.S citizens and eligible immigrants. In the state of Idaho, CHIP is under the Medicaid system and often has a small monthly fee of 10-15 dollars. Applicants have several plans to choose from and I believe this program can benefit many people. One of the biggest ways to improve this program would to make it more well-known and available. A mistake that our society makes is having all of these programs for low income and homeless families, yet many people are not aware that they even exist.

Food stamps and Children’s Health Insurance Program are imperative to not only American lives, but immigrants’ as well. To stop the abuse of food stamps, background checks and continual check-ups on families using both CHIP and food stamps should be made by a government agent. Putting up more billboards and posters in shelters can make people aware of the existence of these programs. All of these changes will help these programs to be used correctly and work much more effectively.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Medicaid for Single Mom

I can speak first hand on this issue.  I was a disabled veteran from the Iraq war who had just finished my obligation of service.  Even though I was receiving some veteran benefits to help try to make ends meet, I was still struggling while I was looking for a job.  Looking back, I am surprised that the two things I cut down in my budget were food and sleep.  These two things are essential for anyone to have the ability to improve their financial situation.  I was able to not only purchase sufficient food, but able to purchase nutritious food.  It seems that everybody has financial difficulties from time to time and programs like Food Stamps, Medicaid, etc. truly help.

If someone who is in a financially challenged situation and doesn’t have optimal health or sufficient food probably won’t have the full potential energy and ability to engage in the workforce or work on a education to improve their financial situation.  I recently took micro and macro economics at my university and was surprised at the positive economic impact these programs have on our country during the recession.  These funds not only allow people to attain food and medical services, but keep businesses (grocery stores/medical centers) open with jobs.  Those people who get paid that work at the grocery stores/medical centers spend money.  This positive cash flow not only maintains the economy, but improves the economy.  After doing some reading, I was impressed that last year the food stamp program alone helped keep over four million Americans out of poverty.

It’s hard and tragic to imagine that four million of my fellow Americans could have gone without food last year.  According to the USDA, “food insecurity among likely SNAP-eligible households declined by 2.2 percent, and very low food security declined by 2 percent; food spending rose by 4.8 percent.”  These programs are not free food/medical support for anyone.  There is a criteria and process to be able to use these benefits.  I believe the most important population group that truly benefits from these programs are the children.

Children are young and still developing.  They are mentally and physically still growing and need more than anyone proper nutrition and medical care.  Once a child has developed without these essential needs, there is no turning back the clock, there is no recovery, and there is no re-developing.  These children are very vulnerable to the effects of poverty.  Being exposed to malnutrition, hunger, and improper medical care, places them in a position of a greater likelihood of lifelong disease and chronic illnesses.    During infancy and early childhood, the brain is developing and metabolic health establishes it’s biological foundations that will carry them for the rest of their lives.

 Proper amounts of food, nutrition, and medical care has been proven over and over a notable increase in their adulthood health and intellect.  Today these programs are already proven to be effective and have a positive impact on our country.  My only critique on the food stamp program is that I wish there were a more stringent criterion of foods that are able to be purchased.  For an example, someone who has a food stamp/EBT card can purchase $189 of potato chips or candy.  This is counterproductive to the spirit of the program.  Altogether these programs are not just nice to have, they are an American community essential to build the economy, build a healthier population, and a stronger nation.