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Letter in Support of Modifying Missouri Federal Food Stamp Ban

June 09, 2014
A group of more than 30 national organizations sent a letter to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon in support of modifying the federal lifetime ban on food stamps.

June 9, 2014

Governor Jay Nixon
216 State Capitol
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Tel: 573-751-3222
email: mogov@mail.mo.gov

RE: Support Senate Bill 680 and Senate Bill 727

Dear Governor Nixon:

We write in strong support of Senate Bill 680 and Senate Bill 7271)Advocates worked to include bill language that modifies the federal ban in two bills – SB 680 and SB 727 — to “double the chances” and both passed. The modified ban language is included in Senate bills 680 (sponsored by Sen. Shalonn “Kiki” Curls) and an amendment to 727 (sponsored by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal)., legislation that would modify the federal ban in Missouri that bars persons for life from receiving food stamp benefits. Under current law, felony drug convictions are the only penalties that trigger a lifetime ban on receiving food stamps. Federal policy gives states the option to lift the ban, but states are required to pass legislation in order to do so. Senate Bills 680 and 727 allow Missourians with drug convictions to receive food stamp benefits in order to sustain themselves and their families and obtain drug and alcohol treatment and other essential services.

Senate Bill 680 and Senate Bill 727 are measured approaches that would result in effective and fair treatment of certain persons with felony drug convictions. Since passage of the federal legislation in 1996 most states have moved to opt out of the federal ban or modify their policies in some capacity.

  • Sixteen states2)States include Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota Vermont, and Washington State. and the District of Columbia have fully opted out of the ban.
  • Twenty-five states have modified the federal, in some instances requiring individuals to comply with community based treatment before eligibility is restored.3)States include Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Missouri is one of only nine states that permanently deny benefits to persons with felony drug convictions.4)Other states include Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Denying food stamps makes it much more difficult for low income persons with felony drug convictions to support themselves as they leave the criminal justice system and reenter society. By denying such benefits we raise the risk that they may return to criminal activity and drug and alcohol use instead of attaining sobriety and gainful employment.

Modifying the ban may also improve public safety. Research has shown that denying food stamps to persons with felony drug convictions may have troubling public health consequences. One of the few analyses done in this area was a pilot study that examined the relationship between “food insecurity and HIV risk behaviors among individuals recently released from U.S. prisons.” The study found that formerly incarcerated persons who lived in states that fully enforced the ban, were more likely to report having gone an entire day without eating than people who lived in states that did not fully enforce the ban; furthermore, people who did not eat for an entire day were more likely to engage in illegal behavior such as using heroin or cocaine before sex or exchanging sex for money.5)Emily A. Wang et al. A Pilot Study Examining Food Insecurity and HIV Risk Behaviors Among Individuals Recently Released from Prison, 25 AIDS Educ. & Prevention (2013) at 117.

Access to food stamps can also ensure the continued availability of alcohol and drug treatment programs for those who need them in order to successfully reenter society. Residential alcohol and drug treatment, mental health, and other programs have historically relied on funding from a client’s food stamps to pay for room and board. Without these funds, many programs have been forced to reduce services, decrease the intensity of services, or close altogether.

In this challenging economy, leveraging additional resources for low income Missourians can strengthen the community. Food stamps are recognized by the federal government as an excellent way to stimulate commerce.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, every $1 in food stamps results in $1.79 in monetary growth.  Persons who receive food stamp benefits support local grocery stores, small businesses and family farms. Passing Senate Bill 680 and Senate Bill 727 could infuse millions of dollars in resources into Missouri’s economy and encourage millions more in fiscal activity across the State.

Your signing of Senate Bill 680 and Senate Bill 727 will help those who need these life-sustaining public benefits to successfully reintegrate and become contributing members of society.  We urge you to sign this important legislation.

CC: Senator Shalonn Curls
Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal

Respectfully submitted,

AdvoCare, Inc.: Focused on Smart on Crime Solutions
All of Us or None
Bread for the World
Celebrities for Justice
Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
Community of Christ
Crossroad Bible Institute
Drug Policy Alliance
Ella Baker Center
Gamaliel
In the Public Interest
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Justice for Families
Lifelines to Healing
Marijuana Policy Project
MAZON — A Jewish Response to Hunger
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Association of Social Workers
National Council of Churches, USA
National CURE
National H.I.R.E. Network
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
One Million Americans
Prison Policy Initiative
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Reentry Central
The PICO Center for Health Organizing
The PICO National Network
The Sentencing Project
Treatment Communities of America
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
University Legal Services, P.E.E.R.S. Coalition

 

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