Food-Stamps: Bureaucracy Reflection

Screen shot 2010-12-17 at 2.01.30 PM
Screen shot 2010-12-17 at 2.01.30 PM

There is nothing quite like bureaucracy.  Every system contains it, we all have to work through it, but most agree that it can often be a pain in the rear.  With a partner, we (American Government class) were all assigned to investigate the processes behind a bureaucratic system with a partner.   My partner, Aimee, and I chose to look into Food-Stamps (also known as SNAPS)

            SNAPS is a national food-assistance program for families who are struggling to provide for themselves.  Families receive a certain amount of benefits each month, based on their calculated need.  In PA, these families then receive an ACCESS card, which can be used to purchase food (excluding certain items like alcohol.)

            The Food-Stamps system doesn’t seem necessarily difficult, but is very complex.  Although it is a nationally based system, a person must apply within a specific State, and complete the required paperwork.  You can do part of the process online, depending on your State.  However, Aimee and I did it by hand because we would have had to actually create an account, and this is strictly academic. 

Instead, we printed out a 24-page application and tried to fill it out.  They consider a lot, and much of the information gets repetitive.  Since SNAPS is often closely tied to other systems like Welfare Benefits, WIC, or unemployment, there are many factors taken into consideration.  You have to provide social security, who you’re applying for, people in your household, income (if any, including job and other resources), expenses per person in house, whether you own a vehicle…etc.  To receive benefits, you have to meet specific income eligibility requirements, which vary depending on who lives with you.  It’s quite tedious.

            The 24-page application was for other benefits, including healthcare.  We soon found a much shorter form for just SNAP benefits, and filled that one out for a (non racially stereotyped) single mother of two. 

            In some way I see why there is so much to consider in application.  They have to consider just about any possible scenario a person can have.  When it comes government money, they don’t want to leave any loopholes.  It’s very specific, but probably needs to be. 

            It was very frustrating trying to figure out how to put all the steps and things to consider into one cohesive “flow” that made sense and didn’t exceed our 60-object free trial on Lucid Chart.  There are probably more specific details that could have been included, but we tried to pick out the most important bits.  I would like to see this professionally done, with every detail, just to grasp the complexity.