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Proposed Farm Bill would prevent lottery winners from continuing to collect SNAP benefits


This news story was published on January 28, 2014.
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SNAP-BENEFITS_LOGOWASHINGTON – Today, majority members of the U.S. Agricultural Committee who helped pass the 2014 Farm Bill said that the measure will address misuse and protect food assistance for those in the program.

According to a news release from the committee, the Agricultural Act of 2014 achieves savings in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) solely by stopping fraud and misuse, while maintaining critical assistance for families. Savings in this section are achieved without removing anyone from the SNAP program, and ensures that every person receives the benefits they are intended to get under the current rules of the program.

The 2014 Farm Bill stops lottery winners from continuing to receive assistance, increases program efficiency and cracks down on trafficking. The farm bill also closes a loophole being used by 17 states to artificially inflate benefits for a small number of recipients.

The Farm Bill’s $8 billion in nutrition savings:

The 2014 Farm Bill achieves virtually all of its $8 billion in nutrition program savings by addressing a program misuse, commonly referred to as “heat and eat,” whereby a small number of states are artificially inflating some people’s food assistance benefits by listing a utility bill they don’t actually have on their food assistance applications.

The amount of SNAP benefits a person receives is set by calculating a person’s monthly income and monthly expenses—which then determines how much in benefits the person receives to help purchase food each month.

Seventeen states are providing individuals who don’t have a heating a bill (often because their utilities are included in their rent and are already accounted for in the expense section of their application) with $1 per year in home heating (LIHEAP) assistance. This $1 per year is clearly not actually meant to help someone pay a heating bill.

However, it is assumed that if someone is receiving LIHEAP assistance, they must have a home heating bill, and thus they will automatically have a standard average heating bill listed on their SNAP application. Listing a heating bill on a SNAP application when a person doesn’t actually have a heating bill means that person will receive benefits above and beyond what they are intended to receive based on their actual expenses under the current rules of the SNAP program.

The Farm Bill addresses this misuse by preventing states from listing a utility bill on an individual’s food assistance application unless the person receives at least $20 in home heating assistance per year, or if the person produces his or her actual a utility bill.

In other words: for a SNAP recipient receiving more than $20 per year in home heating assistance, nothing changes. For a SNAP recipient receiving less than $20 per year in home heating assistance but who can produce their heating bill, nothing changes. If a SNAP recipient receives less than $20 per year in home heating assistance and does not have a heating bill, then a heating bill will not be listed for them on their SNAP application, but their application and benefit amount will accurately reflect their actual expenses.

This change does not affect 96% of SNAP recipients. All recipients will continue to receive 100 percent of the SNAP benefits their actual expenses call for under the current rules of the program. The 2014 Farm Bill does not remove anyone from the SNAP program.

This policy is supported by a bipartisan majority of Congress, and has been endorsed by major press outlets. The Washington Post wrote in their December 30 editorial, “Congress should close a food stamp loophole”:

– This is a “loophole … that costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year — and gives an otherwise vital component of the social safety net a black eye.”

– “This maneuver results in many people receiving money based on utility expenses they did not actually incur.”

– The editorial also notes that while some Members of Congress are looking for any opportunity to gut the food stamp program, “heat and eat looks less like a clever way to help the poor and more like a political gift to SNAP’s perennial opponents.”

– The Post finally notes that this would impact “Only 4 percent of all SNAP families,” and “crucially, none would lose basic eligibility.” 

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3 Responses to Proposed Farm Bill would prevent lottery winners from continuing to collect SNAP benefits

  1. Avatar

    as seen from here Reply Report comment

    January 29, 2014 at 9:31 am

    That’ll save billions, there must be at least a dozen of them! Talk about pissing in the ocean!

  2. Avatar

    50 MILES SOUTH Reply Report comment

    January 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Why not simply agree to pay the farmer a break even amount on a bushel of grain. That is what the farm program was meant to accomplish when it started. Instead of paying money to lawyers that work as advisers. Can you say “milking the system”. Maybe if the Gov would eliminate all those loopholes, the system wouldn’t be such a burden to this country. And what about the inmates that were killed by chemicals while washing semis down on I80. they were on work release. as well as those inmates that dont return from work release. Does this county have a shortage of jobs that it needs to hire inmates (who are suppose to be in jail for punishment) Why not give those jobs to people who need them. Or help find jobs for them as they do for the inmates. This system is being milked by everyone, not just the poorer people.

  3. Allen

    Allen Reply Report comment

    January 28, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Unless I missed it, I didn’t read anywhere in the article about lottery winners getting SNAP, of which they shouldn’t. But I did read about 17 states doing what I think should be illegal, and at the tax payers expense. How about we take this idea a little bit farther, and crack down on all the SNAP people that sit home on the couch smoking crack, etc, while waiting for the welfare check to be delivered. The ones that are able to work, at something, but find it easier and more profitable to live off the tax payers dime. Those 17 states should be looked into for defrauding the government, and made to pay back the money illegally given out by SNAP. It’s bad enough that we have people abusing the system, now we have states enabling them.