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The House of Representatives voted to cut nearly $4 billion from food stamp funding even after Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier used some congressional dinner expenses as ways to try to shame them into supporting the funding.
The 217-210 vote on Thursday was a win for conservatives and it was approved even though Democrats were united in opposition.
The bill’s savings would be achieved by allowing states to put broad new work requirements in place for many food stamp recipients and to test applicants for drugs.
The bill also would end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.
Democratic Representative Jackie Speier used her time on the floor to talk about the $3,588 that one of her Republican peers spent on meals during a trip to Russia and how another had a dining budget of $137.42 per day on a visit to Argentina, where she said he “probably had a fair amount of steak”.
Jackie Speier didn’t name the men that she was making references to, but CNN later identified them as Rep. Steve King who went to Buenos Aires and Rep. Frank Lucas who went on the trip to Russia where “he probably drank a fair amount of vodka and probably even had some caviar”.
Even though Jackie Speier brought a bottle of Smirnoff, some caviar and a plate of steak on the floor with her, it apparently didn’t drive the point home as the cut was approved even with 15 Republicans voting against the measure.
House conservatives, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor from Virginia have said the almost $80 billion-a-year program has become bloated.
he House of Representatives voted to cut nearly $4 billion from food stamp funding
More than 47 million Americans are now on food stamps, and the program’s cost more than doubled in the last five years as the economy struggled through the Great Recession.
Democrats said the increase during tough economic times showed the program was doing its job.
“This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most and most people don’t choose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job … They want what we want,” Eric Cantor said on the floor just before the bill passed.
Finding a compromise – and the votes – to scale back the feeding program has been difficult. The conservatives have insisted on larger cuts, Democrats opposed any cuts and some moderate Republicans from areas with high food stamp usage have been wary of efforts to slim the program.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill.
The new work requirements proposed in the bill would allow states to require 20 hours of work activities per week from any able-bodied adult with a child over age 1 if that person has child care available.
The requirements would be applicable to all parents whose children are over age 6 and attending school.
Every Democrat voting on Thursday opposed the bill. Many took to the floor with emotional appeals.
Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the bill is a “full assault on the health and economic security of millions of families”.
Going further, Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett called it the “let them starve” bill.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that House Republicans are attempting to “literally take food out of the mouths of hungry Americans in order to, again, achieve some ideological goal”.
The Congressional Budget Office says that if the bill were enacted, as many as 3.8 million people could lose their benefits in 2014.
Around 1.7 million of those would be the able-bodied adults who would be subject to work requirements after three months of receiving food stamps.
The 1996 welfare law put that limit into law, but most every state has been allowed to waive that requirement since the Great Recession began in 2008.
The Census Bureau reported this week that just over half of those who received food stamps were below poverty and 44% had one or more people with a disability.
By state, Oregon led the nation in food stamp use at 20.1%, or 1 in 5, due in part to generous state provisions that expand food stamp eligibility to families.
Oregon was followed by more rural or more economically hard-hit states, including Mississippi, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan and Tennessee.
Wyoming had the fewest households on food stamps, at 7%.
Ron Shaich – the millionaire founder and CEO of the Panera Bread chain – is currently attempting to live on just $4.50 a day as part of a campaign to show what it’s like for the millions of Americans who depend on food stamps.
Ron Shaich, a keen advocate of large corporate giving back, started his low budget food shopping challenge on Saturday and has committed to doing to for an entire week.
His effort is part of the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Challenge, designed to raise awareness that “nearly 48 million people receive food stamps and 16 million children go to bed hungry”.
As well as the millionaire businessman, 26 members of Congress – all democrats – are also trying to live on $4.50 per day.
Blogging about the challenge on LinkedIn, Ron Shaich wrote about the difficulties of trying to buy healthy food on a weekly budget of $31.50.
To make his money stretch as far as possible, he visited an NSA Supermarket in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to pick up food in preparation for the challenge.
Ron Shaich writes that he soon learned he was going to have to forgo meat, fruit, vegetables and his favorite granola and instead load up on filling, carb-heavy foods.
Ron Shaich is currently attempting to live on just $4.50 a day as part of a campaign to show what it’s like for the millions of Americans who depend on food stamps
In total, Ron Shaich spent $25.95 – mainly on pasta, lentils and chickpeas – leaving him with just $6 for the rest of the week. He admitted there’s a good chance he’ll use his remaining amount on a sugar fix at some point during the week.
“This isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it’s going to be incredibly hard,” he wrote last Friday.
“I haven’t even felt the first pangs of hunger, and I’m already gaining a whole new perspective into challenges that so many people in this country face in dealing with food insecurity – from the embarrassment of having to leave items at the register to the diligence and ongoing calculation required to constantly prioritize and rank every purchase and potential purchase, big and small.”
The House of Representatives could vote this week to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, by 5.2%. That would mean up to six million Americans would be forced off of food assistance, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Ron Shaich says his intention is not to “trivialize anyone else’s experience” but merely to help spread a deeper awareness of America’s growing food instability problem.
His restaurant chain is a $3 billion-a-year business with some 1,600 outlets in the U.S. but at five of those cafes customers are able to pay whatever they choose for what they eat.
The unusual concept is part of an initiative by the company to help some of the millions of Americans who can’t afford to eat on a regular basis.
The five special restaurants operate under the “Panera Cares Café” brand and instead of cash registers, donation boxes sit on the counter, with signs telling customers: “Take what you need; leave your fair share.”
When the cashiers take meal orders, they hand receipts to customers which show how much the food would normally cost, and then the customer decides how much to leave in the box or to take off their credit card.
The first cafe opened in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton in May 2010 and since then four others have opened in Dearborn, Portland, Chicago and Boston.
Between then, these five cafes are expected to serve more than a million people in 2013.
The concept of a pay-what-you-can restaurant isn’t new, but Panera is the first major corporation to do it.
Ron Shaich thinks other major companies should start to do the same.
“Home Depot has the capability of helping after major storms. The Gap could run thrift stores,” he told Quartz earlier this year.
“It’s a challenge to view your business as not just extracting profit from society.”
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s family has received more than $100,000 in welfare benefits over the last decade, according to the Boston Herald.
Details of the benefits – which included cash, food stamps and housing assistance – are contained within more than 500 documents that were handed over from Massachusetts welfare officials to a committee of state lawmakers on Monday.
The documents have not been released publicly, but a person who has reviewed them told the Boston Herald that the “breadth of the benefits the family was receiving was stunning”.
The paper also spoke to Massachusetts Rep. David Linsky about the documents, who promised a thorough review of the assistance that the family received.
“I can assure members of the public that this committee will actively review every single piece of information we can find because clearly the public has a substantial right to know what benefits, if any, this family or individuals accused of some horrific crimes were receiving,” said David Linsky, the committee’s chairman.
It has been previously reported that deceased Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife Katherine Russell relied on food stamps and public assistance from 2011 to 2012, soon after they became parents.
Last Friday, the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance detailed how the couple received food stamps from September 2011 to November 2012.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Katherine Russell, who married in June 2010, are believed to have become parents to their daughter, Zahara, in 2011, in the months before they began receiving the aid.
Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s family has received more than $100,000 in welfare benefits over the last decade
In addition to food stamps, the young family also benefited from TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children), a program for low income parents with dependent children.
TAFDC is paid out twice a month and can be directly deposited into a recipient’s bank account.
The assistance was paid to Katherine Russell, since a person must be a U.S. citizen, or eligible non-citizen, to receive the aid.
While they took the government aid, Katherine Russell would sometimes clock as many as 80 hours a week while her unemployed husband stayed at home.
Ultimately Katherine Russell Tsarnaev’s income made the couple ineligible for welfare and they stopped receiving state money in November 2012.
Welfare officials have been forced to divulge details of the aid that was paid out to the family of the bombing suspects.
Mass. Gov. Patrick Deval told state agencies last week that they should not discuss the details of what government assistance Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had received, citing privacy concerns.
Welfare information is not available for public release unless the person in question provides their consent, but it is available to lawmakers.
Massachusetts State Rep. David Linsky called on the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance to provide him with the information.
David Linksy issued an ultimatum on Thursday to welfare officials, giving them 24 hours to provide the information.
The letter from Rep. David Linsky was provided to the Boston Herald.
“My office is working to fully comply with your request,” DTA interim commissioner Stacey Monahan wrote in his report to Rep. David Linsky, saying they were only providing a summary “given the great interest in this matter”.
In addition to the aid paid out to Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Katherine Russell, both alleged Boston bombers had benefited from welfare since their parents Anzor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev collected foodstamps and TAFDC – from 2002 to 2004 and again in 2009 to 2011.
Since the Tsarnaevs are Chechen immigrants, some wondered why they received aid. But the state agency explained that they were considered eligible for the public assistance.
“The Tsarnaev parents were eligible to receive benefits as legal, non-citizen residents who were granted asylum status and met the basic eligibility criteria for DTA, including household income levels, presence of dependent children and other factors,” the DTA interim commissioner Stacey Monahan said in a letter addressed to David Linsky, Chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee.
The Herald had reported that sources who knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev said that though he sported a flashy appearance, he failed to earn very much money for his family and was essentially a stay-at-home dad.
His younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been described as more entrepreneurial.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died early on April 19 after a shoot-out with police in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured late on April 19 after an extensive manhunt.
12-year-old Ramie Marie Grimmer, who was shot by her mother during a standoff at a Texas welfare office, has died yesterday.
According to a Laredo police spokesman said Ramie Marie Grimmer died yesterday at a San Antonio hospital.
Her 10-year-old brother is still in a critical condition.
Rachelle Grimmer, 38, the mother of children was found dead on Monday inside the office in Laredo.
Rachelle Grimmer shot her children and then she killed herself during a seven-hour standoff with police, after she was denied for food stamps.
Ramie Grimmer’s Facebook profile had been updated to read “may die 2day” just hours before the shootings.
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services says the agency rejected Rachelle Grimmer’s application because she did not submit enough information.
Rachelle Grimmer had been embroiled in a battle with the welfare department to try to gain benefits for her family since July.
The woman took her children to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission office in Laredo on Monday at 5:00 p.m. and demanded to speak to a supervisor.
Rachelle Grimmer then pulled out a handgun and began threatening several employees, authorities said.
Rachelle Grimmer held two employees hostage until a male supervisor stepped in and stayed with her while she released the other workers.
The mother took the man and her two children into another room while a SWAT team managed to evacuate 30 people.
Rachelle Grimmer released the supervisor at 7:45 p.m. but remained in the building with her children.
Laredo police spokesman said Ramie Marie Grimmer died yesterday at a San Antonio hospital
During the seven-hour stand-off, the apparent Facebook profile of Ramie Marie Grimmer was updated regularly.
At 7:50 p.m., the girl wrote: “May die 2day” on her wall. She then accepted a friend request before writing “I’m bored” at 10:34 p.m. and tagged her location as Laredo, Texas.
The girl then “liked” the band Evanescence and wrote “ahhhhhhhhhhahhhhhh” at 10:52 p.m.
At 11:28 p.m., Ramie Grimmer wrote “tear gas seriasly”. [sic]
Hostage negotiators were in communication with Rachelle Grimmer but it was intermittent as she frequently hung up, according to police.
Joe Baeza of the Laredo Police Department reported on Tuesday: “About 11:45 last night, she hung up the phone with negotiators, and a little bit later, negotiators heard three shots.”
The SWAT team at the front of the building heard children crying and officers stormed in, finding the three in the front office.
The children were airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio in critical condition and the mother was dead at the scene.
Officer Joe Baeza said: “She had issues and felt that she had been let down by social services in general.
“She was making all sorts of outlandish claims.”
Authorities said Rachelle Grimmer, from Ohio, had arrived in Laredo about eight months ago and had lived with her kids in several locations around the border city.
The children’s grandmother, Mary Lee Shepherd said Rachelle Grimmer “was mentally ill” and she tried to get her help.
Mary Lee Shepherd said her son Dale Grimmer, the children’s father, was flying Wednesday from Montana to San Antonio hospital to be with the children.
Dale and Rachelle Grimmer divorced six or seven years ago, after she and the children moved from Montana to Ohio, Mary Lee Shepherd said.
Dale Grimmer also moved to Ohio and was able to visit the children from time to time, but Rachelle Grimmer moved and did not inform him or the court, Mary Lee Shepherd said.
The grandmother said she or her son contacted social workers in Montana twice and in Ohio once because they were concerned that Rachelle Grimmer could harm the children.
Mary Lee Shepherd declined to detail her former daughter-in-law’s mental problems or say what caused them to make those calls.
Her claims could not immediately be verified Wednesday with state child welfare officials in Montana and Ohio.
However, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reported finding two cases Wednesday involving Rachelle Grimmer and her children.
In the first case, reported September 15, 2010, the department received a possible neglect report after Rachelle Grimmer and her two children were found living in a tent on a South Texas beach.
Investigators found no evidence of neglect and closed the case, spokesman Patrick Crimmins said.
In a report made last June, Corpus Christi police said Rachelle Grimmer had come to police headquarters with her two children and reported that she had been a domestic violence victim.
Caseworkers checked on her and the children, determined the children were not at risk and took no further action, Patrick Crimmins said.
Patrick Crimminis said the findings had been delayed until Wednesday because Rachelle Grimmer’s surname was spelled differently in the department database, and she was listed under a different first name.
Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission, confirmed that Grimmer applied for food stamps in July and was denied.
The spokeswoman said Rachelle Grimmer’s application was incomplete and that she was not sure whether the woman qualified for assistance.
Ramie Marie Grimmer from Texas, the daughter of a woman who killed herself after being refused food stamps wrote “may die 2day” on her Facebook page during the seven-hour stand-off her mother had dragged her into with police.
Ramie Marie Grimmer, 12, and her ten-year-old brother were shot and critically wounded by their mother Rachelle Grimmer.
Rachelle Grimmer, 38, entered the Texas Health and Human Services Commission office in Laredo on Monday afternoon and demanded to speak to a supervisor after trying “for months” to gain benefits for her family.
She then pulled out a handgun and started walking through the office, threatening several employees, authorities said.
Rachelle Grimmer took a supervisor hostage in a room while a SWAT team managed to evacuate three dozen people.
Ramie Marie Grimmer wrote “may die 2day” on her Facebook page during the seven-hour stand-off her mother had dragged her into with police
After a seven-hour stand off, Rachelle Grimmer allowed the male supervisor to go free, but she remained in the office with her two children.
The apparent Facebook profile of Ramie Marie Grimmer is updated regularly on Monday.
At 7:50 p.m., the girl wrote: “May die 2day” on her wall.
Ramie Marie Grimmer then accepted a friend request before writing “I’m bored” at 10:34pm and tagged her location as Laredo, Texas.
The girl then “liked” the band Evanescence and wrote “ahhhhhhhhhhahhhhhh” at 10:52 p.m.
At 11:28 p.m., she wrote “tear gas seriasly”. [sic]
Joe Baeza of the Laredo Police Department reported on Tuesday: “About 11:45 last night, she hung up the phone with negotiators, and a little bit later, negotiators heard three shots.
“What had happened was that she had shot each of her children once and herself once.
“She had issues and felt that she had been let down by social services in general.”
Joe Baeza added: “She was making all sorts of outlandish claims.”
The children were airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio in extremely critical condition. The mother was dead at the scene.
There has been no updates on the children’s medical condition so far but Ramie Marie Grimmer had accessed her Facebook page 13 hours ago to take a quiz.
Joe Baeza said Rachelle Grimmer, who was from Ohio, arrived in Laredo about eight months ago and had lived with her children in several locations around the border city.
Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission, confirmed that Rachelle Grimmer applied for food stamps in July and was denied.
She said Rachelle Grimmer’s application was incomplete and that she was not sure whether the woman qualified for assistance.
“We’re still trying to track down exactly what happened with the case,” Stephanie Goodman told Reuters.
“As you can probably imagine, I think she had a lot of other issues she was dealing with as well.”
Joe Baeza credited the supervisor with remaining calm and allowing officers to evacuate the other employees and members of the public who were in the building.
He had been with the state agency for 24 years and had been a supervisor since 2000, Stephanie Goodman said. She said the commission will provide counselling for its workers.
“They go into this profession because they really want to help people, so when something like this happens, it’s doubly traumatic for them,” Stephanie Goodman said.
Stephanie Goodman also said the commission will look at what it needs to do to ensure its offices are safe for staff and the public. She said there was an unarmed security guard on duty on Monday at the Laredo office, where Texans can go to apply for food stamps and other programs.
“This is the kind of thing you hear of happening in other places, but not in our quiet home town,” Joe Baeza said.