By Dan Viets, SMCR Board Chair
In 1996, the United States Congress passed a law which mandates a lifetime loss of eligibility for food stamps for all persons convicted of a drug-related felony state or federal law violation. This loss of eligibility for food stamps, much like the federal education aid law, does not apply to people who commit other types of felonies, including murder, rape, robbery and treason. Only those convicted of a drug-related, non-violent, victimless offense suffer this penalty.
Congress also enacted a provision that allows states to opt out of the drug felony food stamp ban and 40 other states have long since done so. Missouri should join them.
Bills which would do that have been filed during the past few legislative sessions. Filing for 2013 begins this Saturday, December 1. There will soon be similar legislation filed again. The Missouri Association for Social Welfare (MASW) has led the fight to pass such a law, joined by the ACLU, NORML and others. This year, SMCR will join the fight to opt out of this law and we urge all of our members and supporters to take part.
Food stamps are totally funded by federal taxes. Because of the food stamp ban, our state suffers the loss of an estimated $30 million per year which would otherwise return from Washington to Missouri. Not only are tens of thousands of our needy citizens denied nourishment under the current law, but the millions of federal tax dollars which they would otherwise spend on food would also strengthen Missouri’s economy and provide additional jobs for Missouri citizens.
You should contact your Missouri state Senator and your Missouri state Representative by going to senate.mo.gov and house.mo.gov, as well as by telephone and other communications media and let them know that you want them to join as a co-sponsor of this legislation and give it their enthusiastic support.