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Claims Bill Will Cut Food Stamp Fraud Refuted by Program's Head

Jack Rodolico

The head of the state's food stamp program gave testimony Wednesday that rebutted supporters of a bill that aims to reduce eligibility for the program. 

The bill's lead sponsor, Republican Senator Kevin Avard, argued in favor of his bill, which would limit eligibility for food stamps. He said his bill aims to limit fraud in the food stamp program.

"There are abuses in the system. This is a way to solve a problem that does exist," Avard said.

Without refuting Avard by name, Terry Smith, who runs the food stamp and other welfare programs for the Department of Health and Human Services, basically said that claim is bogus.

"One misperception is that this bill will somehow curtail fraud in the food stamp program," said Smith.

Smith pointed to what he called other misperceptions. That fraudulent food stamp applications limit benefits for people who are eligible. Not true, said Smith. That wealthy people can get food stamps. Not really, said Smith.

Before it cleared the Senate earlier this month, Senate Bill 7 was amended to include something called the Granite Workforce program, which would pay employers to hire low-skill, out-of-work people in hard-hit areas. While the food stamp changes are really only supported by Republicans, the workforce program has bipartisan support.

House committee members from both parties questioned why both proposals are in one bill. Democratic Senator Lou D'Allesandro testified Senate Republicans were, quote, trying to sweeten a very bitter bill.

"If you want to do something really positive, cut this baby in half. Do the Solomon. Get rid of the trash and pass something that's reasonable and good for the people," said D'Allesandro.

Senate Bill 7 will have to get through committee before moving to the house floor for a vote.

Before joining NHPR in August 2014, Jack was a freelance writer and radio reporter. His work aired on NPR, BBC, Marketplace and 99% Invisible, and he wrote for the Christian Science Monitor and Northern Woodlands.

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