Food stamp beneficiaries required to look for jobs
TO fight off the “culture of dependency,” the Marcos administration is adjusting its assistance to indigents by setting conditions that would help beneficiaries “graduate” from being poor.
Starting with the state’s P40-billion food stamp program, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said Sunday beneficiaries must enroll in the government’s job-generating programs.
In an interview with radio dzBB, DSWD officer-in-charge Undersecretary Eduardo Punay said the requirements would push 1 million beneficiaries to join programs from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
Punay said these requirements would help end the culture of dependency on government financial assistance.
“This design for the food stamp program is multi-purpose,” he said in Filipino. “The DSWD is evolving. We’re not all just about financial assistance. We’re becoming developmental. We are making sure that our beneficiaries do not become used to merely receiving financial aid or ayuda, and all they do is take and take.”
He cited the case of the 4Ps conditional cash transfer where beneficiaries have become too dependent on government assistance.
“Some of our beneficiaries there do not want to leave 4Ps even though they are due for graduation. This is what we want to avoid in the new program,” Punay said.
Punay said the idea is to subsidize one meal for the beneficiaries to allow them to use the money for job training and transportation as they look for jobs.
Earlier, the DSWD said the food stamp program, dubbed “Walang Gutom Program 2027: Food Stamp Program,” will aid 1 million households that have been categorized as “food poor” or those who earn less than P8,000 a month and those who cannot afford to eat more than one meal a day.
Beneficiaries will receive P3,000 a month or a total of P36,000 a year worth of government assistance that will be distributed through electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards provided by the DSWD.
Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda urged the DSWD to integrate its food stamps program with efforts by the Department of Agriculture to buy and market domestic farm produce, saying that “the poorest communities remain the rural poor of this country.”
“Food stamps, as envisioned and implemented in other countries, are agricultural programs. They aim to bridge rural surpluses with food-poor urban communities. That way, we address both urban poverty and rural poverty,” he said.
“Around 30 percent of farmers are poor. So, if you want to make this program sustainable, you link it with boosting farmer incomes,” he added, noting that the administration’s economic managers have balked at the program’s price tag.
“As it was originally implemented in the United States, where the food stamp program is most prevalent and arguably most successful, you can have a specific amount for general food items, and you can have a special stamp or voucher for surplus produce,” he said.
“What the farmers can get for surplus produce are food stamps for the general program. So, you help solve their food insecurity issues. You take out the surplus, helping manage prices. And you provide free surplus food to those who need it. It’s a great synergy,” he said.
“So, I think the DSWD should really team up with the DA on this program,” Salceda said.
He also said the government should consider using revenues from the sweetened beverage tax to fund the food stamp program.