Over at The College Conservative, Sydney Phillips of Lee University has written a column about her experience applying for food stamps:
My recent excursion into the welfare system has left me scratching my head. Prior to writing and researching this project, my only impression of food stamps and similar welfare programs was that the credit only worked for certain items at certain stores and that an individual had to be in a particularly dire financial situation to receive such aid. I was wrong.
An EBT card works and looks like a debit card, but instead of the user withdrawing money from a checking account, the government prepays an amount of money it deems necessary for the user’s food expenditures. Several of my classmates have recently implemented the use of an EBT card for their groceries, and their involvement in the program immediately piqued my interest. To be honest, my natural first thought was: “I wonder if I qualify for free grocery money.” My immediate second thought was: “How do they qualify for free grocery money?” These students come from similar financial backgrounds as me, live in similar situations, and take the same amount of college credit hours that I do. Thus, my investigation began with a food stamp application, an interview request, and a trip to a place no one really wants to visit: the Department of Human Services.
I was informed by a very kind woman from the DHS that I would have to complete an interview to be considered for the program. The next morning, I was surprised to see the long line of people that trailed outside. When I reached the front of the line, I was informed that all of the interview spots were filled for the morning and that I’d have to call back later and complete my interview over the phone, which I did later that day. To be considered, I needed to submit my last four paychecks, one rent receipt, one utility bill from the previous month, and verification that I was a student worker on campus.
About a week later, I received a notice in the mail that the Department of Human Services had not received my employment verification and therefore could not review my case until I produced another pay receipt (which I could not produce, due to the fact that I’d only worked three weeks at my new job). I had essentially given up at this point. I didn’t need an EBT card; my investigation was merely an exercise in civic welfare accountability.
Approximately one month after I had received the first letter, another letter found its way to my mailbox from the Department of Human Services. I opened it up to find an EBT card with my name on it, instructions on how to activate and use the card, and the amount I could access on it per month — 200 dollars. Nothing followed-up my interview, other than the evidently pointless letter I received during the previous month. No one ever asked for a copy of my birth certificate or Social Security card, nor for my student identification card. I answered all of their questions truthfully, but how were they to know that I was who I said I was? Is it really this simple to obtain welfare benefits here in the United States?