The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta Caucus Urges Defeat of Arkansas Bills Harmful to the SNAP (food stamp) program

Posted on March 20, 2019 at 03:16 PM

The Delta Caucus urges state legislators and all concerned citizens to oppose state legislation that will only be harmful to many Arkansas families struggling with food insecurity.

We would urge colleagues in our other seven states to oppose similar legislation at the state level that would clearly harm administration of SNAP benefits.

Please oppose House Bill 1775 that would expand the work requirement for the state food program’s work requirement; House Bill 1731 that would disqualify parents who refuse to cooperate with the state in establishing paternity of a child and seeking a court order for child support; and House Bill 1743 prohibiting recipients from using their benefits to buy energy drinks, soft drinks or candy.

Food stamp recipients in the vast majority of cases either already have low-paid jobs or are doing everything they can to find work, and expanding the work requirement will only cause many families to lose their food stamp (SNAP–Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.

“We have the highest levels of food insecurity in America in the Delta according to USDA, and these ill-advised, vindictive bills will only make the problem worse,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell.

Renee Griffin, community development specialist in east Arkansas, said “These bills would do more harm than good for the recipients of the vital SNAP program in heartland Delta areas like Phillips, Lee and St. Francis counties.”

Harvey Joe Sanner of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas in Des Arc, said “SNAP is a solid program and what we need in the Delta is more economic development and job opportunities rather than this harmful legislation that would just punish people who are trying so hard to make a living.”

Former state senator Charlie Cole Chaffin said “As a former state legislator I know from experience that these kinds of punitive bills hurt far more than they help people. In the Delta there aren’t many good job opportunities and often when they can find work it is so poorly paid that they can’t feed their families.

As you know, Arkansas reinstated the work requirement for able-bodied food stamp recipients age 19 to 49 with no dependent children in 2016, when the state unemployment rate declined enough to no longer qualify for an exemption. The new bill would make education and and training programs mandatory for about 50,000 food stamp recipients age 50 to 60 and those who have dependent children 6 years old or older. This will only add another burden to people already struggling and trying to find work and feed their families.

For HB 1731, the requirements regarding parents would impose costs of installing a computer system of $1.4 million, cause an increase in their caseload by 11,600 cases, and increase staffing needs to an additional 40 positions, according to the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement.

Regarding HB 1743, there is indeed a problem of obesity in the Delta region and Arkansas as a whole, but it is a broad, societal problem. Food stamp benefits are very low and they have to choose low-cost foods that will ward off hunger pangs. We should all encourage healthier diets, but lower income people don’t have the same ability to buy high-nutrition food.

In any case, would you like to be told that you can’t buy energy drinks or soft drinks? Have you ever bought Coca-Cola or energy drinks?

The Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association and Edward’s Food Giants executives indicated it would be difficult to identify which items are candy or soft drinks.

Please defeat these bills.