After Being Denied Food Stamps, Despairing Mother Shoots Her Two Children In Welfare Office
Rachelle Grimmer and her two children were a struggling family living in a rundown trailer park. The Texas Department of Health and Human Services denied her application for food stamps, saying that she did not submit enough information. Grimmer went to a welfare office in Laredo to discuss her case.
What happened next was nothing short of horrific — after a seven-hour standoff with police, Grimmer shot her two children and then herself:
One of the children, 12-year-old Ramie Grimmer, died Wednesday night at a San Antonio hospital, Laredo police spokesman Joe Baeza said. The girl’s brother, 10, remained in critical condition.
Ramie appeared to post a chilling update on Facebook while her mother squared off with police Monday at a Laredo welfare office. Her profile was updated to read “may die 2day” just hours before authorities say her mother shot the girl and her brother, then killed herself to end the seven-hour standoff.
Relatives say Grimmer had a history of mental illness. It certainly seems to be a story of a mentally unstable women who made a tragic decision. But the case also illustrates the depths of despair many families have been driven to during the economic downturn.
A record one in seven American families is currently on food stamps. In 2011, more than 46.2 million people received a total of $75.3 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
But many families in need of government aid often have difficulty getting it as more and moreobstacles are erected. In 2008, the Food Research and Action Center noted that given the scope of hunger in America, “it is of great concern that the Food Stamp Program is missing one of every three eligible people.” That means less nutrition for needy families and less economic activity — because according to the USDA, every dollar in federal food stamp benefits generates nearly twice that in economic activity.
Republican governors and legislatures have enacted plans like mandatory drug testing of all welfare recipients to reduce the welfare rolls and make it more difficult to secure benefits, just as rising energy and food costs are exacerbating the squeeze on middle class families. They willfully ignore evidence that these requirements cost more money than they save and welfare recipients actually use drugs less than other groups.
The Obama administration added one more hurdle this week when it announced an aggressive campaign to crack down on SNAP fraud. That’s despite the fact that fraud in the food stamp program reached an all-time low in 2009, and the Agricultural Department, which administers the program, has won accolades from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for already running an effective electronic anti-fraud system.
Perhaps the president is sensitive to politically-motivated attacks by GOP candidates that he is a “food stamp President” who has enabled more fraud during his tenure. But he should realize that Republicans are using the issue as a stalking horse for their war on the poor and government benefits. And given the tragic consequences of denying families aid, his focus on rooting out whatever fraud exists instead of making sure that people who qualify are getting it is seriously misplaced.