It is not a crime to be poor in the United States, but according to a report from the Supportive Parents Information Network (SPIN), many San Diego applicants for the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency food-stamps program say they felt like criminals when they applied for food stamps.
The report, “Hunger & the Safety Net in San Diego County,” released in January, found that the application process of applying for aid in San Diego County was offensive to many applicants, even when the staff treated them respectfully.
Applicants to California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are required to be fingerprinted to help prevent fraud. (California is one of the three states in the nation that require fingerprinting for food stamps.) Recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are required to have their home searched by a welfare-fraud investigator from the district attorney’s office before receiving any public benefits; fingerprinting is mandatory as well. According to SPIN member Bill Oswald, fingerprinting costs the state 17 million dollars a year.
On Thursday, December 2, the panel members who coauthored the report held a meeting at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Hillcrest to discuss the politics of hunger and poverty in San Diego.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which operates the federal food-stamps program, has identified our county as having the worst program in the country; the County acknowledged that in their annual “Report Card on Children and Families” in 2009.
The report card, released on February 9, 2010, states, “Since 2006, San Diego County substantially increased the number of eligible children receiving food assistance through SNAP, as have the state and nation. Still, our county has the lowest participation rate of any large urban area in the nation, with only 35 percent of eligible households participating in 2007.”