Food Stamp Shenanigans Due to Farm Bill Loopholes Fulfill Conservative Predictions
It’s tempting to go on a tirade about all the terrible policies packed into the trillion food stamp and farm bill, but recent reports make it a little easier for us to hone in on one glaring problem: food stamp fraud and the explosive costs of and participation in the food stamp program.
Farm bill supporters boasted before its passage of an expected $8.6 billion in savings on food stamps over 10 years by tightening a loophole in the food stamp program. The cuts were related to the “heat and eat” program, which allowed participating states to give low-income households as little as $1 a year in home heating aid so they would qualify for more food stamps.
The farm bill changed that requirement to a minimum of $20 a month in heating assistance before a household could qualify for the additional food stamp benefits.
AP reports the states are proving more than happy to pay the higher amount so they can qualify for more federal dollars for food stamps:
The idea was that many of the states that use “heat and eat” would decide it wasn’t worth their while. The expected result? Some 850,000 food stamp recipients would have their benefits cut an average $90 a month, which is where the savings would come in.
Turns out, Congress was wrong.
The “heat and eat” program covers 16 states, plus the District of Columbia. Six states — Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon and Montana — have already declared that they will boost home energy benefits to avoid the food stamp cuts. Two other participants — Vermont and D.C. — are actively working to do the same thing.
The Heritage Foundation’s Rachel Sheffield said, “I mean, this is, you know, a way that states can draw down greater federal dollars, and they’re not accountable for those dollars, so why not?”
Conservatives have long called for major, substantive food stamp reform. Food stamp participation has reached record highs during the Obama presidency, and food stamp rolls have been growing rapidly among able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs).
When the House was voting on the farm bill in June of 2013, we key voted in favor of the Huelskamp amendment, which would have created additional work requirements for SNAP recipients and reduced overall spending in the farm bill. 57 Republicans voted against this necessary reform.
The gimmicky reform to the “heat and eat” program isn’t fooling anyone, especially not state governments.
It’s time for real reform. In February, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) 100% introduced the Welfare Reform and Upward Mobility Act (S. 2015). It would implement new work requirements for the food stamp program and place caps on welfare spending.
Unlike the gimmicky food stamp “reforms” in the farm bill, this legislation will help Americans increase self-sufficiency and reduce government dependence. It would also prevent states from gaming the system–requiring them to adopt lasting work programs that will finally slow the growth of food stamps and begin to put an end to shenanigans like this.