During the April 21 meeting of the County Board of Supervisors, 17 speakers opposed a plan to bolster the use of food stamps throughout the county. Those who opposed want to factor in the recommendations from a recent study conducted by advocacy groups who work closely with low-income families.
The two low-income advocacy groups, the Caring Council and the Supportive Parents Initiative Network (SPIN), believe strategies that prevent food-stamp fraud — such as fingerprinting and occasional home searches — prevent families from applying for assistance. The advocacy groups say fraud prevention and poor service at welfare offices account for the county’s low ranking in providing food stamps.
At the beginning of the public comment portion of the meeting, Nathan Batchelder, committee consultant for the City of San Diego’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee and staff member for District 7, read a statement from councilmembers Marti Emerald and Todd Gloria, asking supervisors to consider scaling back some of the costly fraud-prevention strategies.
“According to SPIN’s Hunger and Food Stamp Study, San Diego County spends approximately 11.4 million dollars in taxpayer money to subsidize its fingerprinting program…. The county is allowed to waive this requirement, thereby saving millions of dollars in administrative costs and removing the stigma and fear associated with receiving food assistance. We urge the county to reevaluate the need for these costly and ineffective programs, as the figures show they have only hindered our ability to provide help where it is needed most.”
After Batchelder read the statements from Gloria and Emerald, and after over an hour of public testimony, supervisor Ron Roberts (who, along with supervisor Bill Horn brought the issue of food-stamp reform to the fore) still had the statement from city council members Emerald and Gloria on his mind.
“There’s a lot of elected officials out there making a lot of fuss, but they don’t put any money into these things,” said Roberts, referring to the statement from the council members. “They kind of coach it from the sidelines, usually from organizations that are damn near bankrupt anyway, so you can’t expect them to put anything in, but they still do a lot of coaching from the sidelines.
“Some elected officials would like us to believe that it is from their pulpits that some of this is getting done. We have increased the enrollment [by] 25 percent in the last 12 months,” continued Roberts during his ten-minute-long address.
The supervisor went on to say that it was over a year ago when he supported the use of food stamps at farmers' markets.
“That didn’t come from anyone else’s recommendation; that came about from this board’s interest and working with the local farmers' organization.”
After concluding, Bill Horn took over, this time directing criticism at efforts to stall the reforms.
“I hear a lot of speakers saying we have an urgent problem, but we have to delay it. Well, if we have an urgent problem, I don’t think we ought to delay it,” said Horn. “This is the first group I’ve ever heard ask a bureaucracy to slow down and not do something when it had an urgent matter before it. So, I want to thank you folks for becoming the first.”
For more on the newly released study from the low-income advocacy groups, the Caring Council and Supportive Parents Initiative Network, visit their respective websites at caringcouncilsd.org and spinsandiego.org. To view the county’s new plan, go to sdcounty.ca.gov.