The United States Senate has agreed to Sen. David Vitter’s Amendment 1056 to the 2013 Farm Bill. The amendment would deny food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) for life to anyone convicted of certain federal or state crimes.If the amendment makes it out of the Senate, it may be too late to keep it from becoming law. And like previous successful efforts to impose these kinds of devastating barriers on people with criminal records and their families, we may be fighting to roll this back for decades to come.
Your help is needed to make sure the amendment does not make it into the final Farm Bill!
What You Can Do
Call your Senator’s office TODAY! Time is of the essence because the bill is before the full Senate now and Sen. Stabenow, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has said she hopes to finish the bill by the end of this week. Let them know how harmful this policy would be and that you hope they will ask Senators Reid, Stabenow, and Durbin to amend the final Farm Bill package to remove or limit Amendment 1056.
Amendment 1056 to the Farm Bill is counter-productive and will harm children and families as well as individuals who long ago paid their debt to society. I hope the Senator will encourage Senators Reid, Stabenow, and Durbin to amend the final Farm Bill to:
- Eliminate the food assistance ban in Amendment 1056, or, if that is not possible,
- Narrow the scope of the covered crimes, and
- Limit the duration of the ban to a set and reasonable number of years, and
- Provide a process to receive a waiver from the ban by demonstrating rehabilitation.
Contact Info for your Senators’ offices can be found by going to the U.S. Senate website
Why It’s Important
Not only would Amendment 1056 create a lifetime ban on food assistance for individuals with certain types of convictions, it would also reduce the amount of assistance received by a family with a member convicted of a covered offense, imposing potential food shortages on children and families everywhere. Because the amendment is retroactive and creates a lifelong ban on food assistance, it has the potential to devastate thousands of individuals and their families, leaving them without food security and prompting individuals leading law-abiding lives to resort back to criminal activity to feed their families.
As you know, individuals with criminal records already confront thousands of Federal, state, and local legal and policy barriers to employment, education, housing, and public benefits. Because of these and other barriers, unemployment is particularly high among this population, and many individuals struggle to provide for themselves and their families. The Attorney General has asked federal agencies and state attorneys general to reduce or eliminate collateral consequences that do not enhance public safety, such as barriers to public assistance that make it harder for people to meet their most basic needs. Amendment 1056 would add another such counter-productive barrier to the federal code.