Florida Republicans voted to take away food stamps from nearly 230,000 low-income residents due to the economic recovery over the past eight years.
The House Appropriations Committee passed House Bill 581 to return eligibility standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pre-recession levels, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
The bill, which was introduced by freshman state Rep. Frank White (R-Pensacola), would restore income eligibility for households to 130 percent of the poverty level, the minimum level set by the federal government, after it was raised to 200 percent of the poverty level during the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.
That would take away food stamp benefits from a family of four making more than $2,633 a month, which is 130 percent of the poverty level, but less than $4,050 a month, which is 200 percent.
About 3.3 million Florida residents were enrolled in the food stamp program in November, and 1.8 million recipients were children.
“I think every tax dollar is sacred,” White said during the committee hearing. “We should spend those tax dollars as if they are our own.”
The federal government pays for the food stamp program, but administrative costs are shared between state and federal governments.
White’s measure, which passed 18-9 along party lines, would deny eligibility to an estimated 229,311 recipients — or 6.8 percent of the current total — beginning Jan. 1, 2018.
The number of food stamp recipients — who make up 18.5 percent of the population — grew faster than Florida’s population growth, even as the economy improved, but the committee’s GOP chairman said White’s bill was necessary to reduce food stamp fraud.
State Rep. Carlos Trujillo (R-Miami), who chairs the budget committee, told lawmakers he’d seen people shopping in grocery stores with “a Mercedes key chain and their SNAP card.”
The Times reported that Florida had received bonuses totaling $54 million from the federal government seven years in a row for having one of the lowest food stamp error rates in the U.S.
White’s bill would take $300,000 in federal grant money to pay a private vendor to develop a system to verify a family’s assets to prevent fraud.
Most recipients are children and the elderly, disabled or veterans, and Democrats slammed their GOP colleagues for “taking food off people’s tables.”
Trujillo, the committee chair, complained about the way Democrats framed their questions.
“‘People being hurt’ is a subjective opinion,” he said.