Gov’t Proposes Rules Banning Felons, Lottery Winners From Getting Food Stamps

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The Department of Agriculture is moving to implement food stamp rules that ban certain convicted criminals and winners of large lottery prizes from getting food stamps.

The series of proposed rules published Wednesday will enforce laws passed by Congress nearly three years ago. The rules also mandate that each state have a system in place to verify immigration status and income of people who apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also called food stamps.

Currently, each state agency that distributes food stamps has the option of using verification systems to determine eligibility of SNAP applicants. Under the proposed rules, each agency will be required to create an automated system to better determine the immigration status and income of applicants for food stamps.

The rules were mandated by the last Farm Bill, signed into law Feb. 7, 2014, which authorizes federal spending for the welfare program.

More than 43 million Americans currently receive SNAP benefits, and the government will pay about $45 billion in benefits this year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data (USDA).

Under the USDA’s proposed rules, if an individual wins $25,000 or more from the lottery (before taxes), his or her entire household would be ineligible to receive to receive food stamps until the household income falls within eligible range again.

Maine proposed its own rules excluding those who win more than $5,000 from lottery or gambling from getting food stamps, but the USDA’s rules would apply nationwide. (RELATED: Maine Bans Lottery Winners From Receiving Food Stamps)

Existing rules already prohibit “fleeing felons and probation or parole violators from obtaining SNAP benefits,” but now anyone convicted as an adult of murder or aggravated sexual assault will be barred from receiving food stamps.

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