U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) today introduced legislation to restore integrity to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, to save $36 billion in taxpayer dollars while ensuring those in need still receive benefits.
"Times are tough right now for millions of Americans and government spending is out of control. We need to ensure that precious taxpayer dollars are getting to those in the greatest need," Roberts said. "This bill is a package of straightforward, commonsense reforms that have garnered bipartisan support in the past to address, waste, fraud and abuse. We can and should restore integrity to SNAP for those who rely on it while being more responsible to the taxpayer -- and we can achieve billions in real savings without ever affecting food on the table."
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), Senator Roberts' bill, the Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act will save the taxpayer more than $36 billion over 10 years. Score below.
SNAP, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provided a total of $71.8 billion in food benefits to an average of 44.7 million people per month in Fiscal Year 2011. SNAP was exempt from the sequester.
Roberts' legislation eliminates loopholes, duplicative programs, unnecessary bonuses, and restricts lottery winners from receiving benefits. "SNAP funds should go to hungry families, not to lotto winners or toward union dues," Roberts said.
Text of the full bill is below. Some of the key provisions in the bill include:
Prohibiting Lottery Winners from Receiving SNAP:
The bill prohibits lottery winners from receiving SNAP benefits and keeps them from receiving new benefits if they do not meet the financial requirements of SNAP;
Eliminating SNAP State Bonuses, saves $480 million:
USDA awards $48 million each fiscal year to State agencies for bonuses for signing up as many people for SNAP as possible, for signing more people up for SNAP than the previous year, and for processing applications in a timely manner. The bonuses are not required to be used for SNAP administration; the State may choose to use the funding for any State priority;
Restoring Program Integrity to Categorical Eligibility for SNAP, saves $11.5 billion:
Currently, States can automatically enroll recipients of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) in SNAP. At the encouragement of USDA, States are exploiting this provision by providing minimal TANF assistance to recipients in the form of informational brochures and 1--800 numbers which then qualifies them for SNAP benefits. The Roberts bill ties automatic SNAP eligibility to TANF cash assistance only.
Eliminating the LIHEAP Loophole, Saves $12 billion:
Similar to the House Agriculture Committee Approved Farm Bill language, this provision closes the so-called Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Loophole. 17 states exploit this loophole by offering a nominal amount, (e.g. $1) in LIHEAP benefits to boost SNAP participation and benefit levels;
Eliminating Duplicative Employment and Training (E&T) Programs, Saves $4.4 billion:
Currently, 4 States receive over 78 percent of the total 50/50 match funding for state provided training, including New York (36 percent), California (20.2 percent), Pennsylvania (12.4 percent), and New Jersey (9.7 percent). This optional 50/50 federal match is uncapped, and can be used by States to provide reimbursement for participants' expenses. This includes union dues, test fees, clothing and tools required for the job, relocation expenses, licensing and bonding fees, transportation, and child care. Elimination of these funds does not affect SNAP benefits to recipients;
Eliminating the Nutrition Education Grant Program, Saves $4.4 billion:
A number of other existing nutrition education programs are delivered through at least six federal programs administered by the USDA, NIH, and Land Grant University Extension Programs. In practice, the SNAP Nutrition Education program is inequitably distributed with the top four States receiving over 54 percent of the funding, while the bottom 33 State agencies each receive less than 1 percent of total funding. Eliminating this duplicative program would not affect SNAP food benefits;
Senator Roberts, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, has a proven track record on reforming federal nutrition programs. As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in 1995, then Congressman Roberts eliminated waste, fraud and abuse in the Food Stamp Program as part of the Freedom to Farm Bill.
In 2004, Roberts received the "Leadership in the Fight Against Hunger Award" from the Friends of the World Food Program for his lifetime of work in the global battle against hunger. The Senator has also built bipartisan support for the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program that has made a difference in the lives of millions of children around the world.
In 2007, Senator Roberts worked with the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) on legislation that is now law to ensure that programs like Meals on Wheels could continue to receive commodities and bonus commodities directly from the USDA through the Nutrition Services Incentive program (NSIP).