Agriculture Committee Passes Bill to End Food Stamps for Prisoners, H.R. 1000, Three Other Measures Reported to Full House

Mar 12, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Acting swiftly to end waste, fraud, and abuse in the food stamp program, the House Committee on Agriculture today overwhelmingly passed H.R. 1000, a bill requiring states to establish systems to verify that prisoners are not participating in the food stamp program.

On Monday, The General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report which concluded that millions of dollars are wasted in food stamp overpayments to households of the incarcerated, despite the Food Stamp Act's prohibition on prisoner participation in the program. In response, Rep. Bob Smith (R-OR), Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Nutrition, and Foreign Agriculture, and Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-TX), the Committee's Ranking Democrat, introduced legislation (H.R. 1000) requiring states to institute a system to verify that prisoners are not participating in the food stamp program.

"It's outrageous that scarce public resources, which are allocated to those in need out of human compassion and kindness, are going unfairly to some households whose only advantage is that one of its members broke the law and went to jail. Taxpayers have a right to expect that their taxes are wisely spent, and improperly enriching the households of the incarcerated is not what taxpayers have in mind," Chairman Smith said.

"It truly is unfair, not just for the taxpayers, but for the millions of law-abiding Americans who receive food stamps properly that such an abuse could occur, that those families who truly need government assistance for their nutrition could receive lesser amounts than those who break the law. It pains us to think that some families are struggling to provide for their nutritional needs while across the street another household is living better because one of their members went to the slammer," said Rep. Goodlatte.

"The Congress took up welfare reform last year in an effort to break the cycle of welfare dependence and to ensure that our nation's public assistance programs are directed to the truly needy. There is clearly more that needs to be done, and the legislation we have passed out of Committee today will help to end fraud and abuse within the food stamp program," Stenholm said.

Under H.R. 1000, states would be required to institute a system to verify that individuals detained in Federal, state, or county penal facilities are not participating in the food stamp program. If a state fails to establish the verification system required in the bill, the state may have a portion of its federal administrative funds withheld. Additionally, the Secretary may seek an injunction ordering a state to establish a verification system.

The Agriculture Committee also passed several other measures: H.R. 111, introduced by Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA), would authorize the sale, at fair market value, of 22 acres of unused agricultural land in Dos Palos, California for use as an agriculture school; H.R. 785, introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-GA), would rename the Piedmont Conservation Research Center in Watkinsville, Georgia as the J. Phil Campbell, Sr. National Resource Conservation Center; and H.R. 394, introduced by Rep. James A. Barcia (D-MI), would release the United States' reversionary interest in a property in Iosco County, Michigan.

Smith, the full Committee's Chairman, represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Goodlatte, who serves as Chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over food stamps, represents Virginia's Sixth Congressional District, which includes Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the Shenandoah Valley. Stenholm represents west central Texas' Seventeenth Congressional District.