Reichert on SNAP: Ignoring problems for too long

Sep 30, 2013

Washington, D.C. – "Last week, I voted yes on a bill that made significant changes to our current food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP).  Our government must be fiscally responsible in order to have the means to help others not just now, but in the future.  But what’s more important is that the current SNAP program does not provide real help to those in need.  No one should ever go hungry.  Having run away from home and lived in my car for a number of months in my teenage years, I know all too well what it is like to wonder where my next meal will come from.  The current food stamp program does not and has not helped in solving that problem.  This new food stamp legislation assists people getting back on their feet and back to work so that they can provide for themselves and their families.

"The House legislation prevents fraud and abuse in the program, ensures that the program is fiscally sustainable, and makes pro-work reforms.  For example, the most important change in the bill provides opportunities for able bodied adults without children to be counseled and guided to new job training opportunities, part-time jobs, or volunteer activity that will serve the public and at the same time provide valuable job experience.  As long as you participate in these activities for 20 hours a week, you will still receive food stamps until you are able to find full employment.  When similar requirements were enacted to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash welfare program as a part of the 1996 welfare reforms, the nation saw record rises in work and earnings, and record drops in dependence and poverty.  

"This summer, as the Chair of the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, I held a number of hearings on the wide range of programs meant to help low-income families.  One of the main findings of these hearings was that too many of our current welfare programs do an inadequate job of helping low-income adults find jobs so they can increase their earnings and support their families.  It is only fair to the taxpayers financing these benefits, and those receiving them, that able-bodied adults receiving food stamps are put in the best position possible to find a job.  The House-passed SNAP bill does just that.     

"Additionally, the bill takes steps to ensure that benefits go to only those who qualify.  Currently, individuals eligible for certain other welfare programs are automatically eligible for food stamps (also known as "categorical eligibility").  This loophole has allowed lottery winners and millionaires to receive food stamps.  The House legislation puts a stop to this, saving valuable taxpayer dollars for those who are truly in need and supposed to collect these benefits under food stamp program rules.  

"Also, similar to the Senate food stamp legislation, the House bill addresses the "heat and eat" loophole.  States take advantage of the current benefit system, sending as little as $1 per month in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program payments to food stamp recipients.  That $1 automatically qualifies the recipient for up to $130 in extra food stamp benefits.  The bottom line is that this loophole has let States game the system at the expense of the taxpayer.  Look – if you qualify for food stamp benefits by meeting the income and asset eligibility requirements, you deserve help.  Both the House and Senate have agreed that allowing states to game the system does not truly help those in need.

"Nutrition assistance must be a way to lift struggling Americans out of their current situation, not a program that keeps them there.  It’s easy to ignore these problems, and that’s what we’ve been doing for too long.  I believe that the House-passed bill helps to ensure that the SNAP program gives people the tools they need to find a job and is available for years to come for those truly in need.   Now, the House and Senate will have to resolve the differences between the proposals of each Chamber, and I am committed to working with my colleagues to do so in a bipartisan way."