WASHINGTON — The 1,000-page “farm bill” being debated in the Senate is somewhat of a misnomer. Four of every five dollars in it — roughly $80 billion a year — goes for grocery bills for one of every seven Americans through food stamps.
Extending food stamp assistance
States seeking a larger share of the nearly $80 billion a year the federal government hands out for food stamps have resorted to several practices that some lawmakers say are abuses of the system:
•Fourteen states and the District of Columbia make use of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Paying people as little as $1 a year for heating assistance, even if they don’t have a heating bill, automatically qualifies them for greater food stamp benefits.
•The Congressional Research Service says 43 jurisdictions employ what is called “broad-based categorical eligibility” that allows individuals with assets greater than the food stamp limit to receive benefits as long as they receive some other federal benefit.
•This year, households with liquid assets above $2,000 could not qualify for food stamps. The limit is $3,250 if the household includes an elderly or disabled person.