States take loophole on food stamp program - erasing savings
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/14/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
A farm bill act was enacted last year with the intention on making cuts to the food stamps program - also known as the SNAP, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. However, a loophole taken advantage of by many states in the eastern United States may see all those cuts being eaten up. House Speaker John Boehner is now urging his fellow members in Congress to act - but it may already be too late.
The farm bill, passed earlier this year, was expected to save $8.6 billion over 10 years by tightening these food stamp programs.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Said cuts were related to a program known as "heat and eat," which previously let participating states give low-income households as little as $1 a year in home heating aid in order to qualify for more food stamps.
Called a "loophole" by both Republicans and Democrats, Congress last month agreed to raise the amount of utility assistance states would have to pay. IN some instances this was more than $20 a year.
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The intention here was that many of the states using "heat and eat" would decide it wasn't worth their while. As a result, some 850,000 food stamp recipients would have their benefits cut an average $90 a month -- which is where the savings would come in.
The farm bill, passed earlier this year, expected to save $8.6 billion over 10 years by tightening these food stamp programs.
Since nearly half of the states participating have decided to take the above mentioned option, it could possibly erase the promised savings.
So many states are rebelling against the cuts that House Speaker John Boehner is urging his fellow members of Congress to act.
"Since the passage of the farm bill, states have found ways to cheat, once again, on signing up people for food stamps," Boehner told reporters this week. "And so I would hope that the House would act to try to stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing."
The "heat and eat" program covers 16 states, plus the District of Columbia. Out of those states, six, which include Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon and Montana, have declared that they will boost home energy benefits to avoid the food stamp cuts. Two other participants, Vermont and D.C. are actively working to do the same thing.
Pennsylvania's Republican governor, Tom Corbett said he would spend an additional $8 million in heating assistance this year to prevent a $300 million cut in food stamp benefits for state residents.
"Gov. Corbett took the appropriate steps to make sure that Pennsylvania's children are fed, and that families in need are not impacted by what is one of the most substantial federal cuts to food benefits," Kait Gillis, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare, said.
Gillis says it's kind of a win-win for the state, because the "$300 million that individuals receive in SNAP assistance is then spent in Pennsylvania."
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