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New State Law Extends Food Stamp Eligibility

April 7, 2009

Sioux Falls, SD – There was little fanfare but lots of support when state policymakers approved, and Gov. Mike Rounds signed, House Bill 1123. For many South Dakota families, the new law will literally mean food on the table.

South Dakota was one of 13 states that still prevented certain felong drug offenders from obtaining food stamps after they've served their time. As the bill's sponsor, Rep. Martha Vanderlinde (D-Sioux Falls) explains, the measure removes the sanctions, which were imposed in 1996. It's a move that will help these individuals feed their children and take better care of themselves, she says.

"Not only is it going to help mothers with their children, but those that are going through drug treatment are not allowed to get food stamps - and they need that nutrition to heal their bodies and to get on with their lives. It's a win-win for everyone, and the state of South Dakota wins also, because it's federal money, more money coming in to help our economy and our citizens."

For those whose mistakes have already cost them prison time, Vanderlinde says not allowing them to receive food stamps upon their release is double the punishment. She's convinced the new support will make a world of difference for people trying hard to rebuild their lives.

"Like one gal said, 'Martha, I made one mistake and then got hooked right away.' But she's clean, she has a degree now and she wants to be a counselor for drug addicts. So, she is going forward with her life - she just hugged me and was so excited, because now she has money for her children and herself. She can get on with life and South Dakota isn’t kicking them when they're down."

The South Dakota Department of Social Services and the state's Association of Christian Churches also supported the legislation. The new state law lifting the food stamp ban becomes effective this summer, on July 1.

David Law, Public News Service - SD