There has been a lot of discussion lately about converting various food assistance programs from their current status as entitlement programs into a block grant. This is not a new idea. It was part of the “Personal Responsibility Act” included in Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 1995-1996 Contract with America. The Speaker proposed combining school lunch, school breakfast, WIC, and Food Stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “SNAP”) into a block grant.
Earlier this year, the Fiscal Year 2013 House Budget Resolution included language that would renew this old effort to convert SNAP into a state block grant program. On September 20, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) introduced S. 3602, the Food Stamp Restoration Act, a bill to repeal the nutrition entitlement programs and establish a block grant for SNAP. Then, Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) was joined by eight other members in introducing HR 6567, on October 2, the State Nutrition Assistance Flexibility Act of 2012.
Block grants, on the surface, may have some appeal. The goal of the legislation, allegedly, is to provide program flexibility and to simplify administration. But things aren't always what they seem.
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