Brendan Kirby, LifeZette, July 11, 2016
Due to a quirk in the way most states calculate eligibility for food stamps, some families with illegal immigrants get favorable treatment over families with only American citizens, according to a report released Monday.
Under federal law, eligibility for food stamps depends on family size and income. States administer the program, however, and have flexibility in determining how to count income.
In all but a handful of states, the income is counted in such a way that a family made up exclusively of Americans or permanent residents who have lived in the United States for at least five years are deemed ineligible–while a family with the exact same income can be eligible, as long as some of the income comes from an illegal immigrant or green card holder with fewer than five years of residency.
The Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies, which produced the report, estimates that perhaps 460,000 families are receiving food stamps as a result of this policy, at a cost to taxpayers of about $1 billion.
“The administration in most states–including most states with Republican governors–are wrong on this,” said David North, a fellow at the think tank and the author of the report. “It’s peculiar. Nobody’s really paid too much attention to it until now.”
The eligibility quirk is unique to the food stamp program among the myriad of government-assistance initiatives, North said.
“There’s nothing like it anywhere in the United States,” he said.