July 25, 2014

House passes welfare reform legislation, advances food stamp card photo proposal

The state House has approved a bill its sponsor says will keep people from staying on public assistance programs for a long time.

Representative Casey Guernsey (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Casey Guernsey (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Republican Casey Guernsey’s (R-Bethany) says the key provision in his bill would create a work program for public assistance recipients and requires recipients age 18 or older to have a high school diploma or equivalent, or get one within two years of beginning to receive benefits.

See the legislation, HB 343.

An amendment added to the bill also sets minimum requirements for the hours recipients must spend working, training for or looking for a job. Guernsey says bring the state in line with federal regulations.

“We don’t even know how far out of compliance we are. We didn’t find out until this year in the budget committee that we’re out of compliance and being fined to the tune of $30 million dollars … we don’t know how many millions of dollars we’re out of compliance between 2009 and now.”

Another provision would bar the use of electronic benefits cards in some businesses including liquor stores. Democrats argue that creates a hardship for people who live in areas where there are no grocery stores for great distances.

Guernsey responds, “I have counties in my old district that didn’t have a grocery store in the entire county … I understand what you’re talking about with the liquor store but I just don’t buy the argument when I’ve got counties in my district and surrounding districts that doesn’t have a grocery store in the entire county.”

The legislation has advanced to the state Senate.

See our earlier story on Guernsey’s bill being heard in committee.

Representative Keith English (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Keith English (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Another bill that has received initial approval would ask the federal government to okay Missouri printing food stamp electronic benefit cards that include a photo of the food stamp recipient, to help deter fraud.

Opponents point out that there are many ways to commit food stamp fraud that the photos wouldn’t stop, but its sponsor, Representative Keith English (D-Florissant) says that’s OK.

“I think any time we can tighten the belt up like we did getting rid of food stamp dollar bills, we cut fraud that way, and I think this is one step closer to cutting more fraud out of there. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

His legislation needs another favorable vote to advance to the Senate.