The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has started a marketing team to increase the number of food stamp recipients by 50 percent to make sure the Trump administration’s spending cuts do not slow the flood of federal dollars.
President Trump’s “America First: budget request for the 2017-2018 fiscal year that begins on October 1 features a $19.1 billion annual cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp program. As the biggest beneficiary out of America’s 3,142 counties, Los Angeles County, with 1,183,107 food stamp (CalFresh) recipients, stands to lose $1.8 billion a year in federal funding if Congress passes Trump’s proposed budget.
To keep the federal spigot as wide open as possible, County Supervisors Hilda Solis, Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl on May 23 voted to make senior staff at the L.A. County Department of Public Social Services directly accountable to the Board of Supervisors to increase food stamp enrollment and retention.
California’s 71 percent participation rate ranks 48th out of 50 states for enrolling eligible residents into the food stamp program. That compares to a national enrollment average of 83 percent. Los Angeles Supervisors are trying to raise the percentage of eligible county residents participating in CalFresh by 50 percent, from 66.3 percent to 100 percent.
The main reason for even lower CalFresh participation in Los Angeles County is the concern among Hispanics, who already account for a staggering 59 percent of L.A. County food stamp participants, that applying for the program may cause them to be deemed a “public charge” by the U.S. Immigration Service. Individuals deemed a public charge are disqualified from becoming citizens and usually deported over time.
Under President Barack Obama, between 2010 and 2015, food stamp participation increased by 59 percent, to 43 million, and immigration deportations fell by 40 percent, to 255,000. Obama grew the food stamps program by limiting deportations and redefining food stamps as a non-cash benefit that is not a factor in determining “public charge” status.
California and Los Angeles County in particular are notorious for failing to verify immigration status for individuals on CalFresh food stamps. According to the “California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative,” persons fraudulently applying for CalFresh food stamps are not reported to the federal immigration authorities — unless there is proof, such as a final order of deportation, that they are in the country unlawfully.
On February 28, President Donald Trump issued his “Immigration Enforcement for the American People” initiative that aims to eliminate Obama’s lax welfare scheme and renew the broad use of public benefits as a determining factor for a “public charge.”
Breitbart News recently noted that California unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate in 16 years, but most of the gains are in low paid service jobs, while the state continues to export its middle class. Of the 930,000 residents that migrated from California to other states between 2004 and 2015, 85 percent were in the state’s middle 20 percent income bracket and the next lower quintile, according to the Census Bureau.
Middle class families that left Los Angeles County were generally replaced by foreign immigrants, as California’s population grew from 9 percent foreign-born in 1970, to over 30 percent in 2015, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Most foreign-born Los Angeles County residents currently have some form of legal status, due to the Obama administration’s immigration policies. But immigrants earn less and pay less taxes, since about 92 percent of California-born residents ages 25 and older have a high school diploma, while only 66 percent of the foreign-born have a diploma.
By exporting middle-class families and importing foreign-born immigrants, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area is now rated by the Census Bureau as having the highest poverty rate in the nation, at 20.5 percent.