Dispelling Welfare Myths

Photo by Xavier Sotomayor on Unsplash

Back in February, I did a Facebook thread on common misconceptions about people who receive social services such as cash assistance and food stamps (also known as SNAP). I did this because I’m constantly seeing uninformed posts on Facebook bashing people who receive these services, and honestly… I just got tired of it. I shared statistics and links to sources.

Facebook’s search function is a nightmare, though, so I decided to gather everything here, that way I can link to this post in the future without having to hunt through my Facebook profile. Please feel free to share this post to help inform people!


I’ve been a recipient of SNAP—also known as food stamps—for the last two years, and I’m intimately familiar with the system.

To begin with, not everyone can just go online or march into a DSS office and walk out with cash assistance and food stamps. There’s an application process with multiple points of vetting—meaning there are several ways they prevent anyone from lying and taking advantage of the system.

You must provide your social security number, your address, proof of income (including pay stubs, tax forms, 1099s, etc), proof of living expenses such as rent and utilities. By the way, you can only claim rent and electricity as utilities.

It’s actually quite a lengthy process and a total pain in the ass. Not fun for someone with arthritis who can’t sit for more than an hour, whose stiff fingers don’t like typing, scrolling, etc.

You have to meet a LONG list of eligibility qualifications, too. For example, if you don’t have a good reason for being unable to keep a job, such as disability, you don’t qualify. Here’s the list of criteria. You don’t even want to read it, it’s so damned long.

You also have to regularly submit proof of income and other documentation. So, if you somehow lied your way through the initial process, there are checks and balances. Your ass will get caught, and bye-bye benefits.

The number of people cheating the system is actually extremely low. Offhand, I don’t have statistics, but each state regularly weeds out the bottomfeeders by enforcing this vetting process. And it’s a pain in the ass for those of us who are legit, so most scammers aren’t going to waste their time trying to forge or bypass it. Trust me.

Update: Based on the statistics of people who legitimately need SNAP, I’ve determined that less than three percent of people receiving SNAP may be scamming the system.

Further, SNAP does not cover non-food items. It doesn’t cover diamond rings or sneakers or purses or getting your nails done. If you try to add non-food items to your order, the system will automatically weed them out and force you to pay cash for them. Hell, it doesn’t even cover my Emergen-C, which is a vitamin-rich drink mix. There’s literally no way to get around this, either.

Now, let’s talk about the benefits themselves. The amount is so small, it’s hardly even worth it if you don’t really need it. Mike and I get $108 each month. Do you know what that covers? Not much. We can’t afford groceries out of pocket, so I’ve had to get really savvy. For example, I rarely buy things like mac ‘n’ cheese or those quick pasta or rice sides; they’re too expensive, so I just make them from scratch with seasonings and chicken broth. Now, remember that I have arthritis. Quick sides are my best damned friends. But I can’t afford them, nor can I afford freezer meals for those bad pain days when I can barely stand, never mind cook. People on food stamps are not buying steak and lobster, people. We can hardly afford pasta and chicken.

That said, it’s none of your god damned business what I feed my body. Many SNAP recipients are cancer patients or people with chronic illnesses; foods that are rich in iron, like steak, are extremely beneficial to our health. The SNAP program was created to make sure that people receive proper nutrition—yes, even us disgusting poor people.

Now, it is true that the more family members in your household, the more benefits you receive. However, I can’t just claim my Aunt Bob Who Doesn’t Exist lives with me; these have to be dependents, like children, or spouses or parents that you care for. You have to prove that they’re actual dependents, using tax return information, driver’s licenses or state IDs, etc. It’s another lengthy process that most career scammers aren’t going to bother with.

People who hate welfare—you know, the ones who claim that everyone who’s on welfare is taking advantage of the system, is lazy, doesn’t have a job, etc—are usually uninformed. They claim that people on welfare are all illegal Mexicans or some other racist crap. The truth? Brace yourselves! 39.8% of SNAP recipients are white people.

I’ll say it louder for those in the back of the room: THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE RECEIVING SNAP BENEFITS ARE WHITE PEOPLE.

So, when your white uncle starts bitching about all the people sucking off the state, he’s really just bitching about other white people.

Your racist uncle insists Puerto Ricans are popping out kids so they can get food stamps. It’s not true, friend. Not true.

Only 10.9% of SNAP recipients are Latinx.

25.5% of SNAP recipients are black.

Do the math. That’s 36.5%. Your racist uncle claims that the majority of people on SNAP are black or brown people leaching off the system, but the truth is that 39.8% of SNAP recipients are white people. 39.8 is bigger than 36.5, racist uncle.

In total, 76% of SNAP benefits go towards households with children, 11.9% go to households with disabled persons, and 10% go to households with senior citizens.

Update: See my notes above; these statistics are where I got my numbers for percentage of people potentially abusing the system.

For those in the back of the room, THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE ON SNAP ARE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY NEED IT. Mic drop. Auntie Liz out.

Just a clarification: I’m not saying the 36.5% people of color who are on SNAP don’t need it. I’m saying the majority of people of all ethnicities who are on SNAP have serious reasons for needing it.

So next time your racist dad or uncle or friend starts with that “people living off the state” crap, drop these facts for them and tell them to go stuff some steak in their face.


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Elizabeth Barone

Elizabeth Barone is an American novelist who writes contemporary romance and suspense starring strong belles who chose a different path. Her debut novel Sade on the Wall was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. She is the author of the South of Forever series and several other books.

When not writing, Elizabeth is very busy getting her latest fix of Yankee Candle, spicy Doritos chips, or whatever TV show she’s currently binging.
Elizabeth lives in northwestern Connecticut with her husband, a feisty little cat, and too many books.

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