Cumberland Times-News

September 17, 2013

McKinley visits Keyser food pantry, hears of struggles making ends meet

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— KEYSER, W.Va. — U.S. Rep. David McKinley visited the Faith in Action Food Pantry on Monday to discuss the gap in qualifications for food stamps.

Every day in America 11,000 people go on food stamps and one in seven people is on food stamps, according to McKinley. The food pantry uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines and a lot of people fall into the category where they make too much to qualify for food stamps but still have trouble making ends meet, according to Robin Ravenscroft, who is in charge of public relations for the food pantry. “There is a big gap,” said Ravenscroft.

A client of the food pantry noted that she doesn’t qualify for food stamps despite the fact that she has a minimum wage job. “I have a hard time making it month to month. If I can come here I can get fresh fruit and vegetables,” she said. “I get things I’m not able to buy at the grocery store because the prices are so high.” McKinley said there are people in Washington, D.C., working to correct the food stamp issue.

“The fact that you have a minimum wage job and you are excluded, that’s wrong,” said McKinley. “What it does, is it punishes people who try to work.” McKinley asked what could be done at the federal level to help with the food stamp issue. “What would you do to tweak this a little bit?” asked McKinley. “We have a food stamp bill coming up, probably in the next few weeks.”

McKinley suggested that amendments could possibly be made to the food stamp bill.

“This will be a chance to talk about how to make it better,” said McKinley. Food stamps make up 80 percent of the farm bill and it hasn’t been passed in five years, according to McKinley. “Years ago, they put them together because that’s the only way they could get it to pass,” said McKinley. “We had the farm bill come up maybe a month ago and it was defeated.” A section that was added to the bill requires a person to work so many hours a week in order to qualify for food stamps, similar to what was done for welfare payments, according to McKinley.

“Once that was added, the people in the large urban centers just walked away from the bill and said, ‘We would rather kill the bill rather than require anyone to work to qualify for food stamps,’” said McKinley. The farm bill itself was voted on separately and passed. A vote will take place Thursday on just the food stamp portion of the bill and the work requirement will be added to it, according to McKinley, who noted that he thinks the work requirement is necessary.

Keyser Mayor Randy Amtower agreed with him. “If you are going to have to be out out there and apply yourself, then you should get a benefit and not a punishment. Whether it be food stamps, unemployment, I think it applies in all those situations,” said Amtower.

McKinley encouraged everyone to provide him with possible solutions to the food stamp issue prior to the vote. Another client who worked a minimum wage job noted that she didn’t qualify for food stamps because she had a 13-year-old criminal background.

“Because I checked yes on that box (drug felony charge) on the application for food stamps, the government accepts my income as income but I’m not a part of my family,” stated the client. The client said she has two children. “I want to talk with some folks and see what we can do. That’s not right,” said McKinley.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.