Sen. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) introduced a bill Tuesday that offers "billions in savings without ever touching the food on the table for the millions who rely on the program," he said.
Roberts, who was the lead Republican at the time of last year's Senate farm bill writing, said the $36 billion in savings reflects what the Republican side was trying to do in last year's farm bill by eliminating loopholes, duplicative programs, unnecessary bonuses, and restricts lottery winners from receiving benefits.
“This bill is a package of straightforward, commonsense reforms that have garnered bipartisan support in the past to address, waste, fraud and abuse. We can and should restore integrity to SNAP for those who rely on it while being more responsible to the taxpayer – and we can achieve billions in real savings without ever affecting food on the table,” Roberts said.
Specifically the bill eliminates the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) loophole similar to the House Agriculture Committee approved farm bill language. Roberts said 17 states exploit this loophole by offering a nominal amount, (e.g. $1) in LIHEAP benefits to boost SNAP participation and benefit levels.
In a newly released Congressional Budget Office (CBO) updated score of last year's farm bill proposals, CBO estimated that spending on nutrition programs would increase by $4.4 billion over the next 10 years, rather than result in a savings because of how USDA interprets how households qualify for utility allowances.
LIHEAP caught heat in a House Agriculture Committee hearing where Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was questioned about how his agency is administering the allowance. Vilsack responded that this issue is "far from settled" and added that it was only a small sampling of states – 2 – that perhaps a larger sampling may paint a different picture than how the CBO understood the implications of how USDA administers the funds.
Another part of Roberts' proposal goes after duplicative employment and training programs which could save $4.4 billion. Roberts proposed to eliminate the Nutrition Education Grant Program which would provide $4.4 billion in savings. His proposal also would store program integrity to categorical eligibility for SNAP, saving $11.5 billion. The bill prohibits lottery winners from receiving SNAP benefits and keeps them from receiving new benefits if they do not meet the financial requirements of SNAP.
Text of the full bill is available here.