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On Wednesday, April 14, the Legislature debated LB 108, a bill introduced by Senator John McCollister to expand eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). LB 108 would increase the gross income limit from 130% of the federal poverty level to 165%, while keeping the current net income limits in place.
On March 29, I decided to cosponsor this legislation after seeing how it would benefit Legislative District 24 directly. According to data provided by Voices for Children in Nebraska, in the 24th district, 33.5% of the children participate in Free and Reduced School Lunch programs and more than 1 in 10 children participate in SNAP specifically. Almost 16% of the children in the district experienced food insecurity and of those, 66% of those children were likely eligible for public assistance.
During fiscal year 2019, 161,000 of our neighbors participated in SNAP, and more than 72% of those participants are families with children. The average monthly SNAP benefit for each household member equaled $124 dollars and the average SNAP benefit per person per meal averaged $1.26. SNAP was able to keep 31,000 people out of poverty in each year between 2013 and 2017.
As we have all seen, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a strain on our food banks and charity organizations across the state. Since the pandemic began, 162,737 individuals have been provided at least one unemployment insurance claim. By modestly increasing the gross income limit, over 3,000 additional households would be eligible to receive SNAP benefits.
Traditionally, the federal government pays for the actual SNAP benefits and the only cost to the State of Nebraska is the administrative cost to provide benefits to newly eligible populations. However, due to the American Rescue Plan of 2021, the federal government will also pay the State expenses to administer the SNAP program through September 30, 2023. After that date, the State would be required to provide 50% of the administrative costs associated with the program.
Multiple studies have consistently shown that SNAP benefits are one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus programs. For each $5 of SNAP benefits, $9 in economic activity is created. According to the USDA’s Economic Resource Service, each $1 billion of retail generated by SNAP creates an additional $340 million in farm production, $110 million in value-added agriculture, and 3,300 farm jobs, while creating an additional 8,900 to 17,9000 full-time jobs.
LB 108 advanced from General File with the support of 28 of my colleagues and is supported by a wide variety of advocacy organizations. Supporters include the AARP of Nebraska, the Center for Rural Affairs, the Food Bank for the Heartland, the Food Bank of Lincoln, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the Nebraska Catholic Conference, the Nebraska State Education Association and the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Because the benefits of LB 108 far outweigh the costs to our State, I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact into law.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is email@example.com, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Tyler and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.