According to a survey by the General Accounting Office, food stamp enrollment has dropped 27 percent since 1996. A booming economy may be responsible, but confusion from welfare reform may be to blame as well. The study found that many states have been improperly denying families food stamps just because they are no longer on welfare.
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., explained his concern over this matter to CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Thalia Assuras.
"Welfare reform is working in the sense that many, many people are moving off of welfare into work. The problem is that for many of the families as they move into work, they still are below the poverty level. Their kids are eligible for food stamps - for nutritional assistance. We have to make sure that these programs are used to reinforce each other. Also, where they're below the poverty line, we should make sure the kids aren't hungry," Levin said.
He said that many more people are eligible for these food stamps, but seem to be confused.
"In some cases, the states have used nutrition assistance, in a sense, punitively. They haven't informed the people that they are eligible until the third visit. In some cases ... instead of punishing the parent or saying to the parent 'get to work,' they're essentially withdrawing food stamps from the whole family, from the children, and that is a violation of federal law," he said.
Has the government gone after these states?
"No, it hasn't. The federal government moved into court in some cases. Most importantly, there is now an initiative by the federal government working with the states to inform all of the families who remain in poverty, working but remaining in poverty, as to their eligibility under the food stamp law," Levin said.
The key now, said Levin, is publicity.
"To the credit of the department of agriculture and the administration, instead of reacting defensively to this report, they've gone on the offensive. I think in the next few weeks, there will be a lot of educational materials, posters, all kinds of materials to inform people of their rights so that their kids, as they move from welfare to work, have the nutrition assistance they need."