Alabama Opens Food Stamps To Drug Convicts

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Alabama ended a two-decade rule Monday that banned providing food stamps to people with drug related convictions.

The food stamp program is the largest food-assistance welfare service in the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees the program in partnership with state agencies. Alabama lawmakers voted during the last legislative session to lift a 1996 federal ban which prevents former drug felons from receiving food stamps, reports the Alabama Media Group.

Indiana lawmakers are also considering a proposal to open food stamps to residents with drug convictions, reports the local affiliate of CBS News. Critics of the restrictions argue they puts an unfair burden on former convicts who have served their time already. A total of 39 states have lifted the ban since it was first enacted two decades ago.

At the same time states have also begun adopting policies which limit food stamp access. Last month 21 states moved to reinstate work requirements putting an estimated 1.1 million people at risk of losing their benefits, according to The Associated Press. Without the waiver recipients can only stay on food stamps for three months unless they have meet the work requirements.

Work requirements mandate that an able-bodied adult without children must work part-time or be involved in a jobs training program to qualify for food stamps. The restrictions were implemented in 1996 as part of the federal welfare overhaul push. States were granted federal waivers allowing them to ignore the requirements in response to the 2007 recession.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program has increased from 17 million participants in 2000 to nearly 47 million in 2014. Lawmakers over the years have often express concern over the size of the program and potential for abuse. Work requirement and restrictions to criminals with drug related charges have been used to help mitigate the potential of abuse.

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