Fox is criticizing the Department of Agriculture's $5 million award to the state of Oregon for its high-performing food stamp program by attacking President Obama for "boosting food stamp rolls." However, the USDA has been awarding states for high performance in their food stamp programs since at least 2003.
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Fox Criticizes Obama For Oregon's Award For Efficient Food Stamp Program
Fox Nation: "Obama Gives Oregon $5M 'Bonus' For Boosting Food Stamp Rolls." The Fox Nation website displayed the following headline:
[Fox Nation, 9/29/11]
Dobbs: "The Obama Administration Apparently Rewarding States Now For Recruiting Food Stamp Recipients." On his Fox Business show, Lou Dobbs said:
The Obama administration apparently rewarding states now for recruiting food stamp recipients. According to Judicial Watch, the state of Oregon recently received a $5 million bonus, boosting our nation's already bulging food stamp rolls and getting money for doing so. Roughly 15 percent of Americans now rely on food stamps. [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 9/30/11]
But The Awards Date Back To The Bush Administration
Oregon Won Performance Bonuses For "Ensuring That People Eligible For Food Benefits Receive Them" And For "Swift Processing Of Applications." From a September 28 press release by the Oregon Department of Human Services:
Oregon's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has again ranked among the best in the nation, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this week. The state earned one award for ensuring that people eligible for food benefits receive them and a second recognition for its swift processing of applications. The two awards combined bring a $5 million performance bonus to Oregon.
This is the fifth consecutive year Oregon has been recognized for exceptional administration of the SNAP program, formerly the food stamp program. This is the first time Oregon earned a timeliness bonus. SNAP is administered by the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). [Oregon Department of Human Services, 9/28/11]
Food Stamp Awards Won By Oregon Have Been Given To States At Least As Early As 2003. The Department of Agriculture's program improvement page for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, the official, current term for the food stamp program) shows that payment accuracy bonuses to states started in fiscal year 2003, and application processing timeliness and program access index bonuses started in fiscal year 2006. [U.S. Department of Agriculture, accessed 10/2/11]
USDA: State Food Stamp Awards Authorized By 2002 Farm Bill. From the Department of Agriculture's press release announcing the states receiving an award for their food stamp programs during fiscal year 2006:
Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner today announced that a total of $18 million will be awarded to States that provided exceptional administration of the Food Stamp Program in FY 2006.
"As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Food Stamp Act, we recognize the meaningful work and significant efforts of our state and community partners to improve the nutritional health and wellbeing of children, the elderly and their families," said Conner. "I commend these States for their outstanding efforts to alleviate hunger for our most vulnerable citizens."
As authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill, USDA awards $12 million in high performance bonuses among the eight States that have excelled in the area of program access. These States have the best, or most improved, program access index. The index is the percentage of households below 125 percent of poverty that are participating in the program. The following States will receive awards for best program access index: Maine, Missouri, Tennessee, and Oregon. The following States will receive awards for most improved program access index: Massachusetts, Mississippi, Vermont, and Maryland. [U.S. Department of Agriculture, 9/20/07]
2002 Farm Bill Required USDA To Give Bonuses To States With High Levels Of Food Stamp Program Performance. From USDA's explanation of Section 4120 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002:
For FY 2003, the current enhanced funding system that is based on error rates is replaced with a performance system that will award $48 million in bonuses each year to States with high or improved performance for actions taken to correct errors, reduce the rates of error, improve eligibility determinations, or other activities that demonstrate effective administration as determined by USDA. USDA will establish guidance for awarding FY 2003 and FY 2004 bonuses by October 1, 2002 and issue regulations regarding the criteria for bonus awards for FY 2005 and succeeding years. The Secretary will solicit ideas from State agencies and organizations that represent State interests prior to issuing proposed regulations. [U.S. Department of Agriculture, accessed 10/2/11]
Bush-Era Department Of Agriculture Set Out Regulations Stating That Bonuses Would Be Based In Part On "The Highest ... Participant Access Rates." From the Department of Agriculture's final rule on "Food Stamp Program: High Performance Bonuses":
In the NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rule Making], section 275.24(a)(1) proposed that FNS [Food and Nutrition Services] would award bonuses totaling $48 million for each fiscal year to State agencies that show high or most improved performance. Section 275.24(b) proposed to make awards to 30 States in 7 categories: the lowest and most improved combined payment error rates ($24 million); the lowest and most improved negative error rates ($6 million); the highest and most improved participant access rates (PAR) ($12 million)
(3) Program access index (PAI). FNS will divide $12 million among the 8 States with the highest and the most improved level of participation as specified in paragraphs (b)(3)(i) through (b)(3)(iii) of this section. The PAI is the ratio of participants to persons with incomes below 125 percent of poverty, as calculated in accordance with paragraph (b)(3)(iii) of this section (the PAI was formerly known as the participant access rate (PAR)).(i) High program access index. FNS will provide bonuses to the 4 States with the highest PAI as determined in accordance with paragraph (b)(3)(iii) of this section. [Federal Register, 2/7/05]
And Food Stamp Use Increased Temporarily Because Of The Recession
CBPP: Food Stamps Growth Is "Temporary" And "Due To The Recession." According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "SNAP's recent growth is temporary and reflects the battered economic circumstances of tens of millions of Americans due to the recession." CBPP further illustrated that spending for SNAP "rose considerably when the recession hit." CBPP added:
That's precisely what SNAP was designed to do: respond quickly to help more low-income families during economic downturns as poverty rises, unemployment mounts, and more people need assistance. Enrollment then falls as the economy recovers and need abates, which CBO predicts will occur in the coming years. By 2021, SNAP spending will fall nearly to pre-recession levels as a share of the economy, CBO predicts. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, accessed 10/2/11]
Krugman: Spending On Food Stamps Surged "Because The Economy Is Depressed." On his New York Times blog, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman explained the increase in "income security" spending, including food stamps, writing:
"Income security" is unemployment insurance, food stamps, SSI, refundable tax credits -- in short, the social safety net. Medicaid is a means-tested program that also serves as part of the safety net. Yes, spending in these areas has surged -- because the economy is depressed, and lots of people are unemployed.
What we're seeing isn't some drastic expansion of Big Government; we're seeing the government we already had, responding to a terrible economic slump. [The New York Times, 4/25/11]