Senate Accepts Deal to Kick Formerly Incarcerated Off Food Benefits


Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Yesterday, Sen. Vitter of Louisiana offered up an amendment to permanently drop anyone ever convicted of a violent crime from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Democrats in the Senate obliged him. The amendment is for a farm bill, which is currently being debated in the Senate.

Says Greenstein:

The amendment would bar from SNAP (food stamps), for life, anyone who was ever convicted of one of a specified list of violent crimes at any time — even if they committed the crime decades ago in their youth and have served their sentence, paid their debt to society, and been a good citizen ever since. In addition, the amendment would mean lower SNAP benefits for their children and other family members.

So, a young man who was convicted of a single crime at age 19 who then reforms and is now elderly, poor, and raising grandchildren would be thrown off SNAP, and his grandchildren’s benefits would be cut. … Democrats accepted it without trying to modify it to address its most ill-considered aspects.

Two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, elderly or the disabled, and two-fifths of SNAP households live below half the poverty line.

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According to Greenstein, if this amendment ends up in the farm bill and passes, it would hit African Americans particularly hard:

Given incarceration patterns in the United States, the amendment would have a skewed racial impact. Poor elderly African Americans convicted of a single crime decades ago by segregated Southern juries would be among those hit.

Sen. Vitter is claiming that his amendment is only aimed at preventing those convicted of violent crimes from obtaining benefits, apparently under the logic that stripping them of what may be their only form of income assistance will lead to less violence. Curiously, he didn’t propose that johns who’ve hired sex workers would also be banned from SNAP.

Sen. Vitter also proposed an end to the so-called “Obama Phone” program, which started under President Ronald Reagan to help elderly and low-income with cellphone service, particularly in rural areas.

Call your Senator’s office TODAY! Time is of the essence! The bill is before the full Senate now and Senator Stabenow, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has said she hopes to finish the bill by the end of this week.
Message: I hope the Senator will oppose the amendment that would create the lifetime SNAP ban and inform Senate leadership of his/her opposition. Lifetime bans like this are especially bad for people and communities.
Contact Info for your Senators’ offices can be found by going to the U.S. Senate website http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Via ColorLines

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6 thoughts on “Senate Accepts Deal to Kick Formerly Incarcerated Off Food Benefits

  1. Just found out about this yesterday – I have sent my senators email. This is beyond disgusting. Targeting individuals who have done their time-no regard for second chances, and penalizing their families! Mass incarceration and recidivism….its all about the $$$$$$$$$$$

    Like

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