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Senate approves food stamp distribution change, but now bill must go back to the House

Senate approves food stamp distribution change, but now bill must go back to the House

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
March 19, 2014
[post_thumbnail]Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon, was one of 33 senators supporting a change in the number of days food stamps are distributed in the state.

Changing food stamp distribution from one day per month to consecutive 10 days has passed the Idaho Senate, but now must go back to the House because it was amended in the Senate. The final vote was 33-2.

For example, one of the changes from the House bill to the one approved by the Senate calls for the start date for the program to be June 30, 2016, instead of Dec. 31, 2015.

“Sunday afternoon as I was driving up here, I saw a farmer preparing to plant his field,” said Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon. “I also saw a delivery truck delivering food wherever it was being delivered to. When you think about what it takes to get food from the seed to the store shelf it’s amazing, and we can make that process (food stamp distribution) a little easier with this bill.”

Changing the administration of the program will entail costs for the state. If House Bill 565 becomes law, estimates range from approximately $300,000 to nearly $700,000 to make the change. Once implemented, the cost is expected to fall below $250,000 annually. Under the House bill, the date of a person’s birth will determine when food stamps are distributed.

A portion of paying for the added expense could come from bonuses from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which rewards states with top-performing food assistance programs. That formula, in part, is based on the state identifying and signing up additional food-stamp eligible residents.

However, a bonus is not a certainty. During the past 10 years, the state has received a bonus five times, nothing during three of those years and has actually been penalized twice.

Under the legislation, if the state is not eligible for a bonus, the finances will come from Idaho's general fund.
The state opted for single-day distribution in 2009 to save money. Idaho is now one of nine states with such a system. Currently, 218,000 people in the state receive food stamps.

One of the two “no” votes came from Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston. “This change takes away the opportunity to invest in our nutrition programs,” she told her Senate colleagues. “It will negatively impact those that carpool to the big warehouse-type stores. This will also hurt the small mom and pop stores because more people will go to the larger retailers.”

Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, on the other hand, said that “food stamps as a whole last 2.4 weeks out of the month. That's why people are using private food banks. Generally, when a person goes to a food bank, they can acquire 3-5 days of food at one time. This more staggered delivery approach will help make food stamps more accessible and practical.”

Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, noted that he had consulted with the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, the agency that administrates the food stamp program. “This will mean a change, but I think the department has the resources and the capability to get the job done here,” Heider stated.

When the Senate voted on the measure, initially the outcome was 34 members voting in favor of the measure with only Lodge casting a “no” vote. After voting, Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, changed his vote, making the vote tally 33 to 2.

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