A bill before the Indiana House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs would make more people eligible for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits.
The federal government—which pays for SNAP benefits, sometimes called food stamps—says such assistance can only go to households that have less than $2,250 in assets—basically savings or stocks. However, states can opt out of that requirement, and 35 states and Washington D.C. don’t impose asset limits at all. Lawmakers are hoping to follow another handful of states’ examples by raising Indiana’s limit to $10,000.
Kathleen Lara is Policy Director for the group Prosperity Indiana. She says asset restrictions discourage financial responsibility and ultimately encourage people who might be in temporary need of financial assistance to remain poor in order to feed their families.
“Logically, if we want Hoosiers to become economically sufficient, we cannot penalize them for saving funds and forcing them to spend down savings retirement accounts or assets just to become eligible,” she says.
Indiana Association of United Ways lobbyist Maggie Snyder also spoke at the House Committee on Family, Children and Human Affairs Wednesday. She says people who find themselves in temporarily dire financial straits shouldn’t have to forgo their savings.
“A family might lose one of their jobs if mom or dad is working and they lose one, they shouldn’t have to spend down all of their savings and be worse off financially long-term, they shouldn’t have to spend down their child savings accounts,” she says. “We don’t see that as long-term financial stability benefits.”
The bill also eliminates a large amount of paperwork—future recipients wouldn’t need to offer up proof of their assets, only declare them. Supporters say that will cut down on the possibility for costly administrative errors that can sometimes harm SNAP recipients.
The SNAP program is provided for by the federal government, but Indiana kicks in half of the administrative costs.
Some committee members are concerned about the lack of regulation on what SNAP can be used to purchase. SNAP can’t offset the cost of alcohol or cigarettes, but can be used for almost any food item.
The USDA has found carbonated, sugary drinks are the number one item purchased with SNAP. However, what food SNAP covers is covered by federal, not state, law. The committee will take the issue up again it at its next meeting.