Creating Flexibility in Colorado's SNAP Program

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Washington, DC, September 20, 2013 | comments

In 1996, the Congress passed welfare reform legislation, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), allowing states the flexibility to craft their own plans to move families living in subsistence poverty towards self-sufficiency.  In 1997, as a State Senator from Aurora, I led the reform effort to require those receiving TANF assistance in Colorado to participate in work, training, or education in exchange for receiving public assistance.  The program is called Colorado Works and is still in place today. 

However, the 1996 law did not provide the same reforms to the other programs such as food stamps, housing assistance, or healthcare. 

Yesterday, the House passed H.R. 3102 the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013, which extends the same 1996 TANF reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  These reforms will require able-bodied individuals, without dependents, receiving food stamps to find work, attend an educational or training program for twenty hours a week or participate in volunteer activities.

Throughout its 30-year history, the Colorado SNAP Employment First program has seen 90% of its participants successfully complete the work requirements required to receive benefits.  As such, during the debate on the legislation, I negotiated with House leadership to ensure that certain reforms to Federal grants flow to states that have demonstrated successful work training programs – as Colorado has.  Coffman negotiates nutrition aid programs with Chairman Lucas.

The just passed House reforms, the 1996 welfare reform law, and the Colorado Works program are all designed to give people help when they need it without making them permanently dependent on the government.  It is important to note that the savings from the House reform bill come from individuals successfully finding a job or performing work training and not from arbitrary cuts to benefits.   

Most people would rather work than rely on government assistance.  Most people want to go out and be productive so that they can earn a living, so that they can support a family, and so that they can have hope for a more prosperous future.  I will continue to work to help anyone who wants to achieve those responsible goals.

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