SNAP eligibility expansion amended, advanced

Lawmakers placed limits on a bill to expand eligibility for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, before advancing it from select file April 28.

Sen. John McCollister
Sen. John McCollister

Nebraska families making up to 165 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible for SNAP benefits under LB108, introduced by Sen. John McCollister of Omaha. Currently, a family is eligible for the program with a gross income of 130 percent or less of the federal poverty level and an adjusted net income — after deducting expenses such as housing and child care — of 100 percent or less of the federal poverty level.

LB108 would not change the net income standard, which is set by the federal government.

SNAP benefits are entirely funded by the federal government, McCollister said, and all administrative costs associated with LB108 would be covered through the federal American Rescue Plan Act.

McCollister proposed an amendment on select file to end the bill’s provisions on Sept. 30, 2023. At that time, the income eligibility limit would revert to its current level. The amendment was adopted on a 34-2 vote.

La Vista Sen. John Arch offered an amendment, adopted 38-0, that would require individuals earning between 130 and 165 percent of the federal poverty level to enroll in the SNAP Next Step program unless they are exempt from work participation requirements and if the program is offered in the recipient’s county.

Arch said the amendment would help individuals whose jobs were lost or scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic while also encouraging them to find work.

“We have restaurants that cannot open because they cannot fill positions. We cannot build disincentives [to working] into our system,” he said. “The Next Step program has delivered very beneficial results for the Nebraskans that have taken advantage of the program.”

Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard supported Arch’s amendment, saying it’s important to get Nebraskans back to work.

After adoption of the amendments, senators advanced LB108 to final reading on a voice vote.

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