Texas Repeals Ban Barring Drug Felons from Receiving Food Stamps

By Victoria Kim 08/25/15

Supporters say the policy change will give tens of thousands of Texans a second chance and minimize repeat offenses.

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Starting next month, first-time drug felons in Texas will once again be able to receive federal food assistance, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Texas lifted the ban, which was established in 1996 as part of President Bill Clinton’s welfare reform package, providing access to the 56,860 residents in the state currently on Community Supervision for drug offenses, plus those who have cycled out of parole.

Texans convicted of drug felonies still won’t be eligible for cash help through welfare, according to KTRK-TV Houston. But they will be able to receive aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), amounting to $125 per month for recipients in Texas, so long as they comply with the conditions of their parole and don’t commit a second offense while receiving assistance.

“It isn’t about rewarding people convicted of crimes. It’s about making sure that they do not become repeat offenders, and to do that, we need to give them some help,” said state Rep. Senfronia Thompson. “This will give them an opportunity to regain respectability by going out into the marketplace and make a living.”

But those who oppose the change say it’s a bad use of taxpayer dollars. “What we’re talking about is using public tax dollars to expand the federal government’s food-stamp program to convicted drug offenders,” said state Rep. Matt Rinaldi. “I’m against allowing felons to feed at the public trough in an entitlement program such as that.”

Texas is the 44th state to lift the ban. Alabama also repealed its ban earlier this year, leaving just Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming, where the Clinton-era policy is still in effect.

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