South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune and Indiana Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman introduced legislation Thursday aimed at saving $30 billion in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program over a decade.
Thune and Stutzman said their “Streamlining the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Act” would eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse and close loopholes in a program that, under President Obama, has seen participation increase from 32 million to 47.8 million people and spending double to $80 billion in fiscal year 2012.
“Since President Obama came into office, SNAP participation has increased at 10 times the rate of job creation, the annual spending on SNAP has doubled, and one in seven Americans now participates in SNAP,” Thune said in a statement.
“This explosive growth in both the SNAP enrollment and federal cost of the program is alarming and requires lawmakers to take cost-effective legislative control measures,” he added.
The cost-saving measures laid out in the bill would not affect current benefit levels. The legislation would, however, refine categorical eligibility — or automatic qualification for SNAP if a person is enrolled in other assistance programs — to just low income people receiving cash assistance.
It would further require interviews for SNAP participants re-enrolling in the program to ensure that they remain within the income and asset limits and end the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) loophole — which allows states to provide SNAP recipients with small $1 and $5 energy assistance checks to increase their SNAP benefits.
The legislation would also limit the Able-bodied Adult Without Dependents (ABAWD) work requirement waiver to areas with unemployment higher than 10 percent and require the agriculture secretary to create a national database to make sure people are not receiving benefits in more than one state.
Additionally it would reform the nutrition and obesity program to reduce cost, eliminate state quality bonuses and focus on quality control in states via penalties for improper payments.
“Everyone in Washington talks about deficit reduction but we’ve introduced a real, responsible plan to save taxpayer dollars,” Stutzman said. “Over the past decade, SNAP spending has doubled as this program outgrows its original mission of providing temporary assistance. This is a common-sense start for Congress’ Farm Bill discussions as we look for ways to tackle Washington’s nearly $17 trillion debt.”
“Our bill would ensure that benefits are available for needy families by maintaining system integrity and reducing waste in the system,” Thune added. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this common-sense legislation through Congress in the Farm Bill.”