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Reforms Add Integrity to SNAP Food Stamp Program

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. FOXX. Mr. Speaker, Americans are a good and generous people and don't begrudge helping needy families, and especially children, when times are tough. Sometimes our friends, neighbors, and their kids need a little help to get by after a layoff or personal hardship. But we do demand that our tax dollars be spent honestly and in direct support of those who need the aid. Today, that's not always the case.
The United States Department of Agriculture is spending tax dollars to advertise the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on TV, radio, billboards, and through agreements with foreign governments. Through loopholes and questionable recruitment activities, people whose incomes exceeds the SNAP threshold, illegal immigrants, and even the deceased are counted among those receiving taxpayer benefits. Able-bodied adults, too, are receiving food stamp assistance at record levels.
In a down economy, heightened demand makes sense, but with the President's 2009 waiver of work requirements for SNAP recipients, the percentage of able-bodied Americans receiving aid has increased 163%. By comparison, total participants in the SNAP program, including the able-bodied population, increased 70.3%.

This week in the House of Representatives, we voted to make America's food stamp program stronger and more accountable to the American people.

The Nutrition Reform & Work Opportunity Act is designed to preserve the integrity of the SNAP program for families, and especially children, who rely on food stamps. Reforms in this legislation put stronger protections in place to ensure that SNAP money is reserved only for those who qualify for food stamps and isn't wasted on government public relations campaigns, medical marijuana purchases, or lottery winners. Questionable loopholes and recruitment activities which extend assistance to those who make too much money are also ended.

Further, consistent with the bipartisan belief that the solution to poverty is found through work, not just aid, the Nutrition Reform & Work Opportunity Act reinstates Clinton-era SNAP work requirements. These rules stipulate that able-bodied adults, with no dependents, must be looking for work, developing job skills, volunteering for community service, or obtain employment to draw food stamp benefits. Not only will this provision ensure that the truly needy continue to receive aid, it will help beneficiaries compete and prepare for jobs.

An unchecked SNAP program that wastes its limited resources on publicity campaigns or subsidizing those who do not qualify is unable to provide the best service to the people it is designed to help. It is the job of this Congress to ensure the program is held accountable as a steward of taxpayer dollars and as a safety net of last resort for the needy.

Nothing in this legislation adds to SNAP's eligibility requirements, so not one law-abiding beneficiary who today meets SNAP's income and asset tests, and who is willing to comply with applicable, bi-partisan work requirements, will lose their benefits.

Yet this legislation has its critics on the right and on the left.

Many on the left are crying foul because enforcing eligibility rules, requiring work or job search from the able-bodied and eliminating loopholes will lead to some current SNAP beneficiaries being dropped. Although that is true, it is because there are people today drawing benefits who should not be.

One of America's greatest strengths is that we are a nation of laws. Regardless of the example set by this White House, the government cannot operate outside of the law. We cannot pick and choose which to obey. If our laws set forth a standard for eligibility, recipients must meet the standard.

On the right, some are asking whether the savings and reforms in this legislation go far enough. I echo those concerns, and agree that even $40 billion in SNAP savings seems a small sum compared to Washington's vast mandatory overspending machine.

Do we need to find more savings? Absolutely. But the Nutrition Reform & Work Opportunity Act improves the existing SNAP system and gives our country a unique chance to reform a mandatory spending program and rid it of inexcusable waste, fraud, and abuse.

The Nutrition Reform & Work Opportunity Act is a step in the right direction toward ensuring the integrity of the SNAP program and that benefits are reserved for those who qualify and for those working to get back on their feet. Supporting this legislation is the responsible and conservative choice.

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