Households with an elderly or a disabled member also have cliffs of the same magnitude. However, the gross income level when they hit the cliffs varies depending on the net income calculations, but in every case, these levels would be greater than the gross income limits listed in the table.
From March 2020 to August 2020, these cliffs were immaterial because the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) received permission from the Federal government to extend eligibility certification for six months. In practice, this meant that those households no longer qualifying for benefits were allowed to stay in the program.
However, DFCS began processing renewals again in September, and now households gaining in earnings can find themselves faced with the cliffs at the magnitudes displayed in the table.
What was Congress thinking?
The food stamp changes were part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (P.L. 116-127), which had overwhelming bipartisan support. With the legislation, Congress intended to ensure the physical and financial security of families.
One concern was access to food. Congress wanted to make more food available through the food stamp program. Fair enough.
However, changing the rule so that every household participating in the program gets the maximum allowable benefit was crude and blunt. It guaranteed steep welfare cliffs across the board. A single-parent household with one child earning $1,868 a month would lose $374 in monthly benefits if the parent received just one dollar more in income.
The action also favored wealthier participants. A four-person household with $2,839 in monthly income gets $680, which is exactly the same amount received by a four-person household with no income despite being more vulnerable.