I had an interesting discussion today while volunteering at a food bank program. The individual I spoke with was a retired math professor who stated his research makes him believe that significant money could be saved in regards to the foodstamp program.
Apparently the situation is that after the initial application for foodstamps, recipients on the program are required to file monthly or quarterly reports that document the minutia of their income (even things like a \$5 gift card from grandma) and if anything is deemed improperly documented the recipient is forced to file more paperwork or lose their food. The program is administered in county offices with waiting lines lasting 4-6 HOURS on average. All for approximately \$6 per day (\$185/month) through a special debit card that can only be used at authorized merchants.
The professor's contention was that money is being wasted and people are being dehumanized by the constant demand for proof-of-need documentation. He proposes that if we eliminated the monthly paperwork bureaucracy and just "gave" everybody who validly applied \$200 per month we would actually save money, even if the roster of recipients tripled. The only ways to get kicked off the program would be (A) dying - just like social security benefits, (B) requesting exit from the program, or (C) being convicted in a courtroom of committing fraud against the program (such as submitting fake applications for non-existent dependents) which would ban you for life.
On the surface is sounds practical: eliminate (actually repurpose - other agencies will find uses for these folks you can be sure) tens of thousands of high-pay civil service jobs) in exchange for just making an unquestioned monthly deposit. Note that the professor did support keeping the initial application screening process and also once a year requiring a simple "I still need help" affidavit. Mountains of paperwork monthly vs 1 sheet per year.
So my economic question is how can this "proposal" be validated? Where does one get the numbers for what is currently being spent on the program, broken down by both recipient costs and paperwork costs? Does such a source of data exist and is it available to average Joes like me for review?
PS: The professor also suggested putting a cap on the food card accounts of 90 days worth of benefits. If you don't use your benefits (say you are in the hospital for a few months) the card would not accept new deposits until there was "room" for more.