Senator Pitches Food Stamp Block Grant To Save $260 Billion

Thomas Phippen | Reporter

Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma proposed turning food stamps into a state-run block grant program with an amendment to the Senate’s farm bill Wednesday.

Inhofe says converting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) “from an entitlement program in state-run block grant” would save taxpayers at least $260 billion over the next decade.

“I’ve long been concerned that the SNAP program has been plagued by runaway costs fueled by an utter lack of accountability and oversight, and am disappointed this year’s farm bill doesn’t make needed reforms to the program,” Inhofe said in a statement announcing his amendment.

The Senate is scheduled to consider amendments to the bill Thursday.

The House-passed farm bill includes additional work requirements for able-bodied adults receiving food stamps, but the Senate version of the policy bill does not include any drastic structural reforms to the program.

A block grant program, which has been proposed as a fix to the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food stamps program in the past, would also five states “flexibility to design and implement the program according to their individual needs,” Inhofe said. Currently, the USDA provides the funds and regulations, but the states are responsible for providing the funds and deciding who qualifies for benefits.

“My proposal would also increase accountability by requiring recipients meet work requirements, pass drug tests and demonstrate proof of citizenship or legal residency,” Inhofe said. “Moving to a block grant program would also strengthen Congressional oversight by requiring SNAP to be funded each year, instead of as an automatic handout.” (RELATED: DC Abandons Ads Encouraging Public To Report Food Stamp Fraud)

Nutrition policy experts say that block-granting SNAP undercuts the program’s purpose. “Converting SNAP to a block grant would rob it of its most important structural feature: the guarantee it provides across the country to help low-income households afford an adequate diet,” Dottie Rosenbaum, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in 2017.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin proposed block-granting SNAP in his Better Way proposals in 2016, but the House did not get far in advancing the proposal, but the House did not include the proposal in the farm bill this year.

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