WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2013 – Details about the proposed House Republican three-year nutrition bill emerged today as the House prepares to take up the legislation, which would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $40 billion over 10 years and make an array of changes to the program, according to congressional sources.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., confirmed today that the House will take up the bill next week.
Among the changes, the “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act” proposes to eliminate “categorical eligibility,” which allows families that receive a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) brochure or referral to an “800” number to automatically be eligible for SNAP benefits, according to a summary of the bill. This change aims to save $11.5 billion. The bill would eliminate the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) “loophole” that critics say 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. The summary said states would be banned from sending LIHEAP payments below $20 for the sole purpose of increasing their SNAP benefits. Savings is expected to be $8.7 billion.
Another provision in the bill would eliminate state bonuses for signing up people for SNAP each year at a savings of $480 million.
Other provisions in the bill include:
- Allowing states to pursue retailer fraud through a pilot investigation program and deters retailers most likely to engage in benefit trafficking by requiring them to stock three of the four major food groups to qualify as vendors.
- Prohibiting USDA from advertising SNAP on television, radio, billboards and through agreements with foreign governments.
- Ensuring illegal immigrants, lottery winners, traditional college students, and the deceased do not receive SNAP benefits.
- Allowing states to conduct pilot projects that adopt TANF work requirements for able-bodied adults to remain eligible for SNAP benefits, with the exception of those with a disability or with sole responsibility of a child under the age of one, or under age six if no child care is available.
- Allowing states to conduct drug testing on SNAP applicants as a condition for receiving benefits.
- Ending eligibility for SNAP for convicted violent rapists, pedophiles and murderers.
- Removing the ability for states to get waivers for the work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents.
- Allowing states that adopt TANF work requirements in SNAP to receive the 50 percent match for employment and training activities.
Many of these provisions were included in the House’s first failed attempt to pass a farm bill this year, and many Democratic lawmakers blamed the proposed cuts and various changes for the failure. That bill’s defeat led leadership to separate the nutrition title.
The current plan is to couple this three-year nutrition bill with the House’s five-year “farm-only” farm bill and send it to conference with the Senate-passed five-year farm bill, which includes $12 billion in SNAP cuts.
Agricultural stakeholders have been anxiously awaiting word on the House nutrition bill.
Chandler Goule, vice president of government relations at the National Farmers Union (NFU), said his organization is strongly opposed to the proposed cuts.
“The amount being proposed is completely unreasonable when conferencing with the Senate,” Goule said. “A bill with draconian cuts will compound the difficulty of passing a conferenced five-year farm bill. This bill is directed at those most in need and should not be passed.”
Ferd Hoefner, policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said considering the House farm bill increases crop insurance subsidies by $10 billion “without even modest common sense reform, it is astounding the nutrition proposal would cut the premier anti-hunger program by $40 billion and include radical extremist reforms.”
Hoefner said passage of the nutrition bill would badly hurt and possibly end chances for getting a new farm bill through Congress this year.
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