Moocher Nation: Paid Food Stamp Recruiters
"Why are there 47 million people on food stamps – and why have those numbers continued to climb even after the economic downturn? Because states have hired hundreds of recruiters to sign people up."
"[I]t is Nerios’s job to enroll at least 150 seniors for food stamps each month, a quota she usually exceeds. Alleviate hunger, lessen poverty: These are the primary goals of her work. But the job also has a second and more controversial purpose for cash-strapped Florida, where increasing food-stamp enrollment has become a means of economic growth, bringing almost $6 billion each year into the state. The money helps to sustain communities, grocery stores and food producers. It also adds to rising federal entitlement spending and the U.S. debt...
A decade ago, only about half of eligible Americans chose to sign up for food stamps. Now that number is 75 percent. Rhode Island hosts SNAP-themed bingo games for the elderly. Alabama hands out fliers that read: "Be a patriot. Bring your food stamp money home." Three states in the Midwest throw food-stamp parties where new recipients sign up en masse."
"The story of one 60 year old man wrestling against going on food stamps is at the center of the piece:"
"Only later, alone with Celeste, had he said what he really thought: "A damn sky dive. That’s our life. How does anyone fall this far, this fast?"
"And now SNAP brochures were next to him on the table — one more step down, he thought, reading over the bold type on the brochure. "Applying is easy." "Eat right!" "Every $5 in SNAP generates $9.20 for the local economy." …
"Sir, can I help?" Nerios asked. She brought over some food. She gave him her business card and a few brochures about SNAP. "I don’t want to be another person depending on the government," he said. "How about being another person getting the help you deserve?" she said… "Makers and takers,"
Lonnie had told the kids then, explaining that the world divided into two categories. The Briglias were makers…
He wondered: Sixty years old now, and who was he? A maker? A taker?