Bill would end ban on drug felons receiving food stamp benefits In Indiana

635,000 currently receive SNAP in Hoosier state

INDIANAPOLIS--   A state senator has filed legislation that would effectively lift a ban on Hoosiers with certain drug felony convictions from receiving food stamp benefits.

Currently, Indiana is one of just four states that prohibits individuals with a prior drug felony conviction from receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, even if they are otherwise eligible, according to Emily Bryant, Executive Director for Feeding Indiana’s Hungry.

Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores) filed Senate Bill 11, which would require the SNAP recipient successfully complete probation, parole, community corrections or other post conviction monitoring program.

Currently, about 636,500 individuals are on SNAP in Indiana.

“Changing this policy will help Hoosiers who have been convicted of a drug felony, recently or as far back as 1996, to access food for their families when they fall on hard times,” said Bryant. “That could be when they’re released right after serving their time, or it could be years later when they lose a job, experience an injury or illness that keeps them from earning enough to meet their needs. This policy is particularly hard on families—if the household is otherwise eligible for SNAP benefits they can receive them, but not for the individual with the drug felony, putting a hardship on the household because they wouldn’t receive enough benefits for the whole family.” 

The Indiana Institute for Working Families estimates that people with prior felony conviction earn on average only, $11,000 a year, that's an average monthly wage deficit of $627.  

“When job opportunities and wages are not adequate for self-sufficiency, that’s when having strong work supports is so important to help families to make ends meet,” said Jessica Fraser, director of the Indiana Institute for Working Families. “Nutrition assistance is perhaps the most vital work support, and it is one that is unavailable to this group of people at the time they need it most, as they are returning to community life.”

If passed into law, the change would take effect January 1, 2019.

The bill has been assigned to the Committee on Family and Children Services.

Call 6 Investigates found dozens of Hoosiers receiving SNAP that did not appear to need the benefits.

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