WASHINGTON, April 12, 2013 - Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, introduced legislation to reform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest program in the nutrition title of the farm bill. The SNAP Improvement Act was introduced as a companion bill to S. 458, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
“When SNAP benefits are given through loopholes to people who wouldn’t otherwise qualify for the program, it not only drains our resources, but it also unfairly attaches a stigma to the families that truly need assistance,” Neugebauer said.
The SNAP Improvement Act, which has Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Austin Scott, R-Ga., and Roger Williams, R-Texas, as cosponsors, is estimated to reduce program costs by $35 billion over ten years. The CBO score of the companion bill in the Senate can be found here.
Noting that SNAP reform is “a sensitive issue with some people,” Neugebauer said his bill includes “commonsense reforms that ensure benefits are going to those most in need.”
The farm bill passed through the House Agriculture Committee in 2012 included a provision in the SNAP Improvement Act regarding the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Neugebauer said he believes other issues addressed in this bill will be brought up in the upcoming farm bill deliberations.
CBO estimates provisions closing the LIHEAP loophole in the nutrition program would save $12 billion. Neugebauer said the loophole allows states to “game the system” by securing more federal taxpayer dollars by sending token LIHEAP checks—some as low as $5—to increase SNAP benefits. He said approximately 17 states are known to use this loophole.
Reforms in the legislation include changes to categorical eligibility. Families can qualify for SNAP if they receive any state assistance, “even non-cash assistance like pamphlets and brochures.” CBO outlines that limiting categorical eligibility to only cash-assistance saves almost $11.5 billion.
Also, consolidating programs through the legislation is estimated to save $4.3 billion. Specifically, the provision would consolidate SNAP employment and workforce training programs that duplicate assistance offered through the Labor Department.
A provision in the bill to eliminate state bonuses for signing up people for SNAP each year should save $480 million. Calling the practice “almost crazy” Nuegebauer said, “The program should be accessible to those who need it, but taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent rewarding states for doing their job.”
Although a small amount, the legislation would also prevent lottery winners from receiving SNAP dollars. “Occasionally, through loopholes or oversight, lottery winners have been discovered using nutrition assistance,” he said. “This legislation would ensure that people cannot defraud the system by preventing anyone with significant gambling or lottery winnings from receiving benefits.”
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