Cut off Food Stamps to Mercedes Owners? Just Maybe

Categories: Fuming Foodie
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There's been a lot of discussion lately about a plan in Michigan to deny food stamp benefits to people who own cars worth $15,000 and up.

At first I thought, "Well, yeah." A $15,000 car can be a symbol of financial success. It's not a sign someone is in dire straits. Then I mulled the scenarios that could lead someone who drives an average to above-average car to apply for food stamps.
In our current economy, this person, let's call her Joanne, might have bought her brand new Hyundai Elantra when she had a stable job as a receptionist at a law firm, but has since been laid off. She no longer has a stable income to pay for all of her expenses, including car payments and grocery bills.

Joanne shouldn't be denied food stamps -- her setback is temporary. Until recently she was financially independent and deserved to drive around in a new car. That being said, her food stamp benefits should also be granted on a temporary basis.(Michigan recently amended the orginal plan to say it would exempt one car per family.)

The following might work. Joanne should be granted food stamps benefits for 90 days. That would give her three months to find another job and improve her situation. If after 90 days, she couldn't find gainful employment, then she should be required to downgrade her car or lose her food stamp benefits.

She could sell her car and buy a cheaper, under $5,000 car, effectively decreasing her monthly expenses -- which at this hypothetical point in her life would be a sound idea.

Now, if Joanne is so attached to that new car smell that she isn't willing to do this, then her benefits should be discontinued. Why? Because now what we are really doing is subsidizing the payments for her Elantra.

Of course, if someone owns a car outright and isn't making monthly payments, then that brings up another question. In such a case, tax money would not be enabling that person to make car payments -- so what is the issue? Should they have to sell that car and buy a cheaper one so that they can put a little money in their pocket? Money that may help tide them over until their situation improves?

In this situation, I don't think we should punish someone who has worked hard enough to buy a decent car. But again, help should be provided on a temporary basis.

Michigan's proposal is not without its value, but there are many details that need to be taken into account. It shouldn't be enacted as a blanket policy. Determinations of eligibility should be made on a case by case basis.

The food stamp program was never intended to be lifelong assistance - benefits are supposed to help tide people over until they get on their feet again. And they're definitely not intended to provide people with a way of maintaining their current lifestyles without making sacrifices.



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10 comments
GinaParrillo
GinaParrillo

Thank you for writing this. I don't think anyone should be penalized for having a car, whether it's new or not. What if she is homeless now and sleeps in her car? The car should not be taken into account, unless she's making payments on it like you say.  

F9F Panther
F9F Panther

Abuse of this program is rampant. I know of six people who live in the apartment complex I live in who are scamming the system. The oldest is 71, has a boyfriend who lives with her yet she does not claim him because if you combine their incomes, it is over $3000.00 per month and she get $325.00 per month in food stamps. Another sells her food stamps for cigarettes, beer and pot. This person goes to the cigarette store and buys (phantom purchase) $100 worth of nothing and receives $75.00 in cash. The cigarette store doesn't have $75.00 worth of food, candy and soda total yet she does this until she depletes her card and her kids go hungry. Reporting does no good as the department that handles food stamps are way understaffed and CPS doesn't give a shit, so my wife and I end up feeding the kids because no child should go to bed hungry. What a screwed up system and to think my tax dollars are being used in this fashion makes me sick to my stomach.

AngryAlex
AngryAlex

Heres a quick idea for Joanne. SELL YOUR DAMN CAR PAY OFF WHAT YOU OWE AND BUY A USED CAR. 

morons

I work at a grocery store on SOBE and I see people taking advantage of food stamps everyday. They show up wearing designer clothing and jewelry and have their mercedes keys in hand, I ask for payment and they give me an EBT card..... Really? Ok so just because you don't work but your millionaire husband does, does not allow you to get foodstamps!!!!! Or for the foreigners that come to our country to make money but have all their accounts off shore, so they can apply for foodstamps? come on!!!! I actually need them! I work full time, pay rent and bills I can barely afford to get by per month.Makes me sick!

Idiots
Idiots

Plan ahead and don't buy a car you don't have the future money to make payments on!!!!   Quit living on credit maybe...

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

Good point, Gina. I hadn't even thought of that -- the applicant may actually be living out of their car. In which case, driving a $15k plus car should be considered irrelevant. 

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

F9F, there are probably millions, or at least tens of thousands of people who do cheat the system and receive benefits illegally. I knew of someone who used to exchange the $500 a month she received in food stamps for her and her four children for money at one of those "grocery stores." She would then take that money and spend it on cocaine - all of it. Her kids would starve and I or my mom would end up feeding them. The person you speak of got a much better exchange rate ($75 cash for $100 FS) though. The woman I am speaking of would get $0.50 on the dollar. So instead of spending $500 on food for her children, she'd spend $250 on cocaine --- which of course would only last her for a few days. Thanks for the comment and for sharing your experience. 

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

I'm with you on mandatory drug testing a thousand percent. 

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

I agree that there are PLENTY of people who seem to have the money for Coach purses, iPhones, and so on, but yet don't have the money to put food in their or their children's mouths. That is total BS; I'm with you on that.

But, if there is an honest, hardworking person, who just lost a job they've held for 5 - 10 years, I don't agree that they should be denied temporary help.

Ily Goyanes
Ily Goyanes

In this economy people are losing jobs they've held for 10 and 20 years. While I don't think that people who are living beyond their means should get a hand out, I also don't think that people who are just suffering a temporary setback should be denied help because they drive a Camry.

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