A Texas bill scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1 will allow first-time drug felons to apply for food stamps, a move that places Texas among many states to opt out of a Clinton-era measure.
First-time drug felons will be able to apply and receive food stamps providing they meet the conditions of their parole and abstain from committing other offenses while receiving SNAP benefits.
The bill has been heralded as a tool to help the most needy in the state, with as many as 56,860 Texans currently on Community Supervision for drug offenses possibly benefiting from the legislation, according to the Houston Chronicle.
"It isn't about rewarding people convicted of crimes," Rep Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, said. "It's about making sure that they do not become repeat offenders, and to do that, we need to give them some help."
She added: "This will give them an opportunity to regain respectability by going out into the marketplace and making a living."
But opponents fear the new policy will exacerbate crime and hurt taxpayers.
"What we're talking about is using public tax dollars to expand the federal government's food-stamp program to convicted drug offenders," Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, said. "I'm against allowing felons to feed at the public trough in an entitlement program such as that."
Over 3.8 million Texans receive SNAP benefits last year, according to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
With the new bill, Texas became the 44th state to depart from a previous federal measure that barred felons from receiving SNAP benefits, with prohibitions still existing in Alaska, Georgia, South Carolina, Wyoming, Mississippi and West Virginia.
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