Claremore Daily Progress

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March 4, 2013

Legislators take aim at needy Oklahomans

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

Statia Jackson, 38, an educator in Oklahoma City, said she received food stamps for about two years while working part-time and raising two young children on her own. Jackson, who eventually left public assistance after finding a full-time job, said she would have gone hungry without the benefits.

“Honestly, we would not have eaten,” she said. “They do have some food pantries and things of that nature, but at times they didn’t have anything. I would have gone without eating if I didn’t have those (benefits).”

Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, has a pair of bills targeting those who receive food stamps, including a measure that would prohibit convicted drug offenders or those with $5,000 or more in “liquid assets” from receiving benefits.

Roberts declined to speak to The Associated Press about his bills, but his office issued a statement in which he said he introduced the measures at the request of a constituent.

“I have heard concerns from taxpaying constituents that struggle to make ends meet and often have to resort to bologna sandwiches for lunch,” Roberts said in a statement. “At the same time, there are others who made poor choices resulting in a drug conviction and are currently subsidized by others’ taxpayer dollars.”

But advocates for low-income Oklahomans say beneficiaries of these types of programs are being unfairly targeted because of a misconception that the programs are broadly abused or that recipients somehow don’t deserve benefits.

“I think that there is a popular myth that poor people are abusing these programs, and I think it’s unfounded and unfortunate,” said Kate Richey, a policy analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a think-tank that advocates for programs that help poor Oklahomans. “These are real people who find themselves in a situation where the only option at the moment is to ask for help.”

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