Last night the Senate considered taking action that would limit states’ flexibility in serving struggling families during difficult times and would cut food assistance to 19,000 Nebraska families. Thankfully, this bad amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill was voted down on a 41-58 vote.
The amendment, proposed by Senator Sessions, would have eliminated state flexibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by eliminating what is called the categorical eligibilty option. Categorical eligibility gives states the flexibility to operate their SNAP program in ways that are best suited to the people in the state. Nebraska used this option last session to increase the asset limit on SNAP. Increasing the asset limit allows families to maintain some savings while they get back on their feet, preventing them from spiraling further into poverty. It is counterproductive to have these families, whose incomes are low enough to qualify for SNAP, use up assets that can move them off public assistance.
Nebraska has consistently received bonus dollars under SNAP for running an efficient and accurate program, ensuring that only those Nebraskans who are eligible receive benefits. In 2010 Nebraska ranked first in the nation for negative error rates.
The claim that Senator Sessions’s amendment is necessary to fight waste, fraud, and abuse is unfounded. Nebraska’s excellent track record is proof that there is no structural problem with SNAP that allows for more fraud or abuse. There is very little fraud in the program nationally. The program is and can be run well and with great accuracy.
The Sessions’s amendment was not necessary and would have done real harm to Nebraskans by keep working families from affording their next meal. It’s bad policy and we are glad Congress rejected it.