Health

Florida Republicans Want To Deny Food Stamps To 229,000

| by Michael Allen

Florida's House Appropriations Committee passed a bill on March 15 that would deny food stamps to an estimated 229,311 residents. The party line vote was 18 Republicans voting for the cut, and 9 Democrats opposing the measure.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, most of the Floridians who will be denied food stamps, if the bill becomes law, will be children, elderly people, veterans and the disabled.

Republican state Rep. Frank White sponsored the bill that will set the income level for food stamps at 130 percent of the poverty level. The level was raised to 200 percent during the Wall Street crash and subsequent recession in 2008 and 2009.

"I think every tax dollar is sacred," White told the committee. "We should spend those tax dollars as if they are our own."

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Republican state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, who chairs the committee, said that the bill is needed to stop food stamp fraud by verifying the eligibility of people who apply for food stamps.

Trujillo said there are people in Miami grocery stores with "a Mercedes key chain and their SNAP card."

SNAP is the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that serves millions of poor individuals and families across the country.

A Florida House analysis of White's proposal found that Florida received $54 million in bonuses from the U.S. government between 2007 and 2014 for having the one of the lowest error rates for SNAP benefits in the country.

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If White's bill goes through, people who are eligible for food stamps will see a cut of $400 yearly, according to Trujillo.

Florida lawmakers took aim at poor people in 2011 when they passed a law that required every low-income person to pass a urine drug test when applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

The Tampa Bay Times reported in 2012 that taxpayers ended up paying $118,140 to reimburse poor people for their drug test costs, which ended up being a net loss for the state of $45,780.

Derek Newton of the ACLU of Florida told the newspaper at the time: "That's not counting attorneys and court fees and the thousands of hours of staff time it took to implement this policy."

The ACLU of Florida sued and beat the state of Florida over the drug testing in federal court in 2013. The state appealed and lost again at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in December 2014, reported The New York Times.

The unanimous court ruled that the drug testing of TANF applicants was an unreasonable search because Florida officials did not show a "substantial need" to test everyone who applied for welfare.

Sources: Tampa Bay Times (2), The New York Times / Photo credit: Thomas Hawk/Flickr

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