Washington – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said House Speaker John Boehner is “shameful” and “reprehensible” when he says states like Connecticut are cheating when it comes to the federal food stamp program.
Connecticut was the first state to announce it was shifting money from a federal assistance program so about 50,000 households in the state could continue to receive expanded foods stamp benefits. These additional benefits, worth about $90 a month, would have been lost under a new restriction in the federal farm bill.
“To characterize as cheating and fraud states’ implementation of this provision is disingenuous at best and shameful at worst,” Malloy wrote Boehner in a letter Monday.
Before the farm bill changed the requirements of the program, 17 states, including Connecticut, expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) benefits to thousands of households by giving recipients as little as $1 dollar in heating assistance.
To help cut the food stamp program by $8.6 billion over 10 years, negotiators of the farm bill said food stamp recipients must receive at least $20 in heating assistance a year to qualify for larger SNAP benefits.
Malloy was the first governor to announce he would raise the minimum heating assistance benefit to $20.01. The governors of New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Oregon followed.
Republicans wanted to cut much more from the food stamp program, but were persuaded by congressional Democrats to accept a smaller cut in order to win their support for the farm bill.
So GOP leaders were blindsided by what Malloy and his fellow Democratic governors are doing.
“Since the passage of the farm bill, states have found ways to cheat once again on signing up people for food stamps,” Boehner said last week. “And so I would hope that the House would act to try to stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing.”
Malloy, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the other governors making adjustments to their states’ “heat and eat” programs say they are following the letter of the new law.
“Congress wrote the bill. Congress passed the bill. And now states are implementing the law, your reprehensible comments notwithstanding,” Malloy wrote Boehner.
But, after receiving Malloy’s letter, Boehner press secretary Michael Steel said, “Governors who choose to undermine the bipartisan reforms in the farm bill are putting those who depend on the home heating program at risk, and taking money out of every American taxpayer’s pocket.”
When Malloy announced last month that he was shifting an additional $1.4 million from other recipients of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, program to help others keep their full SNAP benefits, Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes said it is worth it.
“The governor’s directive to expend $1.4 million in available federal energy assistance funding will preserve approximately $66.6 million annually in SNAP benefits for households in Connecticut,” Barnes said.
Democratic governors in other states, including Massachusetts, are being pressured by anti-hunger advocates to follow Malloy’s lead.
Meanwhile, GOP leaders in Congress are threatening to pass new laws that would cut further into the food stamp program.