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State Senate passes bill to tighten requirements for food stamp recipients


CONCORD — A bill to toughen up requirements for food stamps in New Hampshire cleared the Senate Thursday on a 14-9 party line vote, after it was amended to soften the impact on food stamp recipients with dependent children.

Senate Bill 7, as originally proposed, would have made it impossible for families to get waivers from federal work requirements, income limits and asset tests when applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Under an amendment to the bill, the Department of Health Human Services would be authorized to approve waivers to the rules for families with children, but only with the prior approval of the joint House and Senate Health and Human Services Oversight Committee.

Sen. Kevin Avard, R-Nashua, said the changes were necessary to slow the growth of the food stamp program and preserve benefits for those truly in need.

“It is important to reinforce that the food stamp program should be a temporary solution with the end goal of getting people into the workforce,” Avard said. “This will assure that people who need the services will get them while still protecting New Hampshire taxpayers.”

The food stamp program is entirely funded by the federal government.

Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said the change could result in 17,000 individuals losing food assistance, who would then turn to their local food pantries or public welfare offices for help.

“I realize we are all federal taxpayers,” he said, “But this is a direct downshift on local property taxpayers, for what? For rejecting federal money. We’re going to reject federal money and then put it on the backs of local property taxpayers.”

The bill also requires food stamp recipients to cooperate with the Division of Child Support Services in establishing the paternity of dependent children and in enforcing child support orders.

State Sen. Sharon Carson said there is widespread fraud in the food stamp program and the rules for eligibility need to be tightened up.

“You would not believe the fraud and abuse that exists with this program,” she said. “What this bill and amendment are trying to do is tighten the program up to make sure it is going to be there for the people who truly need it.”

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