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Advocates Aim to Show SNAP Curbs Unpopular

Most states have removed an asset test for SNAP applicants. (WV Center On Budget & Policy)
Most states have removed an asset test for SNAP applicants. (WV Center On Budget & Policy)
February 12, 2018

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Advocates hope a public meeting today at the West Virginia Capitol will show that policies making it tougher to get federal food assistance are not popular.

House Bill 4001 would add work and other new requirements for those applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Seth DiStefano, policy outreach director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said punishing folks seeking public aid might seem popular to some lawmakers, but kicking real people off the program will spark resistance.

"You're not going to have very many people coming out and talking about what a great idea it is to take $3.87 a day in federal food assistance, taking that away from people,” DiStefano said.

The public hearing for the bill was scheduled to start at 8:30 on Monday. Supporters say they want to push SNAP recipients to get jobs if they are able, and so reduce government spending.

DiStefano argued that a nine-county work rules pilot project did little to increase employment, but cost the state about $13 million in federal funds in 2017.

In dealing with a state budget that continues to be strained, the Republican-led Legislature has looked to cuts in government assistance, while also pushing for reduced taxes on businesses and little change in public employee pay and benefits.

But DiStefano pointed out the SNAP program is federally funded, so every SNAP dollar comes from the outside and is spent in a West Virginia community. He said it makes no economic sense to turn that money away.

"No one wins,” he said. “Communities don't win when the one grocery store in town has to shut down because the federal SNAP dollars that were keeping it in the black were pulled out. That hurts everybody."

Supporters say the bill would reduce waste and fraud by people abusing the system. DiStefano argued that very few people cheat the system to avoid work.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. There are 81,000 working West Virginians who rely on SNAP benefits - 34,000 senior citizens,” he said. “When the lawmakers take a look at it from that perspective, I think the politics shift."

HB 4001 is up for discussion in the House Judiciary Committee. More information is online at

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV