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NCSL Letter on the Senate Farm Bill 2012

April 24, 2012

The Honorable Debbie Stabenow                     The Honorable Pat Roberts
Chair, Agriculture Committee, U.S. Senate      Ranking Member

Washington, DC 20515                                     Agriculture Committee, U.S. Senate
                                                                          Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Stabenow and Ranking Member Roberts:

On behalf of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), we write in appreciation for your bipartisan effort in the Committee Print of the 2012 Farm Bill. We applaud your efforts, which will continue to build on the important state-federal partnership in administering the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). NCSL looks forward to continuing to work with you throughout the process of reauthorizing vital nutrition assistance programs in the 2012 Farm Bill.

As the process of reauthorizing SNAP continues, we urge you to oppose amendments that eliminate or limit categorical eligibility, eliminate or further reduce the “Heat and Eat” option available to states beyond what is proposed in the Committee Print, eliminate the SNAP Employment and Training program (E and T), and eliminate the state bonus system for payment accuracy. As you know, states and the federal government split the administrative costs for SNAP. Categorical eligibility is an option used by states to reduce program administration costs in SNAP. Eliminating or limiting categorical eligibility would increase administrative costs to states by requiring states to redetermine eligibility for SNAP, even though the family was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs. The “Heat and Eat” option, where Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) recipients receive SNAP benefits is another administrative flexibility states can use to assist individuals, the elderly, and families who are clearly in need of assistance. 

States have incentives to keep program administration costs low due to their current precarious budget situation and four years of back to back state budget cuts. States continue to face difficult fiscal situations and limiting state options only places an increased burden on state budgets. It is important to note that state revenues remain at pre-recession levels. Between FY2008-FY2013, it is estimated that states have closed a $527.7 billion budget gap. Therefore, it is important to note that most, if not all, states could not make up the difference in providing E and T services to able-bodied individuals who do not qualify for other limited workforce dollars. Additionally, NCSL appreciates the current policy of providing financial incentives to states to provide good performance in our joint effort to reduce error rates and promote payment accuracy. Incentive funds have been reinvested in the program and provided for a range of services, including food banks, EBT at farmers markets, and new technology.

If you have any questions regarding NCSL’s policy on nutrition programs, including SNAP, please do not hesitate to contact Sheri Steisel or Emily Wengrovius at fedhumserv-info@ncsl.org or by calling (202)624-5400.

Sincerely,                                   

The Honorable Tom Hansen                                        The Honorable Barbara W. Ballard
South Dakota Senate                                                   Kansas House of Representatives
Chair NCSL Human Services & Welfare Committee      Chair NCSL Human Services & Welfare Committee

 

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