Bills Seek to Close Gaps in Food Stamp Law|
bills, Kennedy-Specter/Walsh Hunger Relief Act (HRA) (S. 1805, H.R. 3192)
and Graham/Coyne-Levin Food Stamp Outreach and Research for Kids Act (FORK
Act) (S. 1800, H.R. 2738) would address problems of hunger and food
insecurity. The first - HRA - would close gaps in the Food Stamp law,
including those affecting vulnerable legal immigrants, households needing
reliable vehicles, and families with children with high shelter costs, and
would boost funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a
lifeline for thousands of food pantries and other emergency assistance
programs. The second measure - FORK Act - would enhance outreach and
monitoring in the Food Stamp Program, steps that are needed to address
problems among those presently eligible but not served by the Food Stamp
Program as well as those who would be made newly eligible under the HRA.
HRA and FORK Act take several important steps in alleviating hunger.
First, HRA builds on the bipartisan down payment the 1998 Agricultural
Research Act made in restorations of benefits for needy legal immigrants
and restores food stamp eligibility to all otherwise eligible legal
also updates food stamp rules by allowing states the option of using the
same rules to count the value of a vehicle under both TANF and Food Stamp
Programs. In addition, HRA helps low-income families with children with
high shelter costs. For example, it would allow food stamp allotments to
more accurately reflect actual household need, the Food Stamp Program
takes into account a household's shelter expenses when determining the
household's food stamp allotment. The Program does this by allowing
households to deduct shelter costs from their income and raises the food
stamp shelter deduction cap to $340 per month over four years and then
indexes it to inflation.
addition, HRA bolsters TEFAP, which since 1983 has leveraged private and
volunteer resources in communities across the country to meet short-term
nutrition needs of families in crisis and provided an outlet for excess
government-owned commodities by authorizing additional appropriations of
$100 million over five years for commodity purchasing and food
distribution costs, approximately 10 percent more than present spending.
finally, the Food Stamp Outreach and Research for Kids Act would provide
grants to state and local governments and community-based organizations to
educate families about food stamp eligibility, improve caseworker
training, strengthen USDA's on-site inspections of local food stamp
offices, and authorize other measure for effective outreach and
implementation. Both bills have wide bipartisan support and would go a
long way in closing the gaps in the food safety net programs.