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Chabot Introduces Common Sense Reforms for the Food Stamp Program

Washington, March 30, 2016 | comments
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Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) last week introduced legislation to enact common sense reforms to the food stamp program. Chabot’s legislation, H.R. 4849, the Food and Nutrition Reform, Responsibility and Accountability Act of 2016, would restore work requirements for able-bodied recipients and help to eliminate fraud and abuse in the program.

“Welfare, generally, and food stamps, in particular, were intended to provide a short-term safety net for those who’d fallen on hard times,” said Chabot. “Unfortunately, the safety net has become a way of life for too many people. We need to take steps to help people get off of public assistance and back on their own two feet. One way to do that is to enact strong work and job training requirements for those able to work.”

In 2009, during the peak of the recession, President Obama allowed states to waive work requirements for the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), more commonly known as food stamps. This waiver drastically increased the cost of the program, and removed a key incentive for people to become self sufficient.

To address this problem, H.R. 4849 would restore and strengthen the work requirements in two ways. First, the legislation would require that the able-bodied adults (excluding the elderly and the disabled) without dependents either find employment, participate in a job training program, or volunteer in an eligible manner after one month of receiving SNAP benefits. If they fail to meet these requirements, they will be ineligible to continue to receive SNAP benefits.

Additionally, H.R. 4849 reduces the number of able-bodied recipients that a state can exempt from work requirements from 15 percent of the affected population to 5 percent. It also prohibits states from seeking a broader exemption from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition to work requirements, Chabot’s legislation also addresses waste and abuse in the program. Last year, a television news station in Columbus, Ohio conducted an investigation into unused SNAP benefits. As a result of the investigation, they found widespread waste, including identifying 25 people who had SNAP balances totaling more than $300,000. It was discovered that the government was not expunging unused benefits after 12 months (as required under current law) and was still funding cards for individuals who were no longer using SNAP or were no longer eligible for the program.

H.R. 4849 addresses this problem by shortening the time period before recipients lose access to unused SNAP funds. Under current law, state agencies must expunge SNAP funds that are not accessed by families after a period of one year. This legislation would shorten that period to 90 days. Specifically, Chabot’s bill would require state agencies to expunge from a household’s Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) account any funds not used 90 days after such funds are posted to the EBT account. Because they were never used, expunged funds would remain in the U.S. Treasury and become available for other purposes.

“The intent of SNAP is to assist those families ‘in need’ on an ‘as needed basis,’” Chabot said. “If a SNAP recipient hasn’t utilized all their SNAP funds after 90 days, which is a reasonable period of time, then the recipient has not demonstrated a need for those funds, and the unused funds should be given to those truly in need, not be kept by the recipient.”

Chabot offered a similar expungement proposal as an amendment to the 2014 farm bill. Chabot’s amendment passed the House by voice vote, but was not included in the final version of the legislation.

It is estimated that the reforms included within H.R. 4849 could save about $10 billion annually in the SNAP program.
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