House Speaker John Boehner says states that are bumping up home heating aid to food stamp recipients, most of which are led by Democrats, are "cheating" their way around federal funding cuts passed by Congress in the latest $1 trillion farm bill, according to The Hill
House and Senate lawmakers sought cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by focusing on changing the rules for LIHEAP, also known as the “heat-and-eat” program, whereby low-income people get additional financial assistance beyond food stamp entitlements to go toward heating.
A loophole in the program, however, enabled states to claim more food stamp funding by sending checks as small as $1 to households that would not otherwise have received help.
The farm bill changed the regulations of the program so that states are now required to pay at least $20 in heating assistance to eligible households. The move was projected to save taxpayers $8.6 billion over a decade.
Since the bill was signed by President Barack Obama in February, seven of the 17 states that currently send nominal LIHEAP checks have announced plans to increase that aid to $20 so they can continue to access additional funding from SNAP, The Hill reported. All but one of the seven have Democratic governors, according to The Hill.
"I would hope that the House would act to try to stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing," Boehner said at his weekly press conference, according to The Hill.
"I mean, listen. The American people work hard for their money, they send it here because we impose taxes on them, and they expect us to spend the money wisely. And, we just passed the farm bill, and then we find states finding ways around the law, and frankly, perpetuating the fraud that we were trying to stop."
A prompt legislative response is not expected, and it appears Congress has little recourse other than increased oversight and monitoring.
"This is just political pontificating," Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, told The Hill. "The idea that there is some secret bait-and-switch is just preposterous."
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