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Kentucky Republicans Trying to Knock Thousands Off of SNAP

March 9, 2024

(SPECTRUM-KY) Thousands of Kentuckians could lose their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, if a bill moving through the state legislature becomes law.

House Bill 367 seeks to end broad-based categorical eligibility for SNAP, which waives certain federal requirements to receive help with purchasing food.

The bill would follow nine other states in making it harder to qualify, but are in line with federal guidelines.

“The pandemic is behind us, and it’s time for a thoughtful solution on how we get more workers back into the workforce. It’s not compassionate to simply keep somebody as a servant to the government,” State Rep. Wade Williams, R-Earlington, said ahead of his bill’s passage in the House.

The bill’s sponsor says this is targeted at getting people who, he believes, shouldn’t be on the program off of it. 

HB 367 would lower the income threshold for someone to receive SNAP. Currently, someone must make below 200% of the federal poverty level. The bill would drop it to 130%.

Another barrier the bill imposes is through an asset test, which determines eligibility based on the value of a person’s assets, like savings or the value of their car. Under HB 367, a person would have to have assets less than $2,750, or $4,250 for seniors and people who have a disability to quality.

“What this bill will do in Kentucky is make SNAP benefits far more difficult to access,” Stan Siegwald, director of strategic initiatives for Louisville’s Dare to Care food bank, said. “It will punish families that are working, trying to put savings away. If they get to a very small level, they’ll be punished. They’ll be off SNAP. They won’t be able to feed their families.”

Siegwald is also concerned this bill will increase the demand for Dare to Care, as people who’ve lost benefits will turn elsewhere for help.

“For every meal a food bank provides to a family, SNAP benefits provide seven or eight,” Siegwald said. “So if suddenly everyone who’s losing their SNAP benefits needs to Dare to Care and our nonprofit partners, we’re going to need the community to step up in a big way.”

Another organization that is opposed to the bill is AARP Kentucky. Staff there believe it could be particularly harmful to seniors.

Eric Evans is the State Advocacy Manager for AARP Kentucky (Spectrum News 1/Mason Brighton)

“We want folks to work and be able to find jobs and get off the food assistance if they can,” Eric Evans, State Advocacy Manager for AARP Kentucky said. “But if you’re going to look for work to try to get yourself off of food assistance, you’re probably going to need a car. Maybe that car puts you over that asset limit.”

The bill also removes the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ ability to waive work requirements for SNAP eligibility and gives this power to state lawmakers.

Both groups urge lawmakers to reconsider their proposal.

House Bill 367 passed on the House floor last month with Democrats and some eastern Kentucky Republicans voting no. The final vote was 61-30. The bill has since been assigned to a Senate committee but has not been voted on yet.

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