December 6, 2021

Florida Organizations Laud Measure to Improve Food and Economic Security, Promote Dignity for Returning Citizens

Legislation could save millions in taxpayer dollars and boost economic mobility for formerly incarcerated Floridians by removing outdated ban on food and cash supports

ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida Policy Institute (FPI), Bread for the World, Florida Impact to End Hunger, and Florida Rights Restoration Coalition today voiced support for legislation (HB 6079), dubbed the "Food Security Upon Reentry Act," which would remove the draconian lifetime ban on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for formerly incarcerated Floridians with past drug trafficking convictions.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Vance Aloupis (R-Miami). Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Doral) introduced identical legislation (SB 762) in the Senate.

A recent study suggests that people subject to the ban are more likely to be reincarcerated.  The same analysis estimates that the ban has already cost Florida taxpayers upwards of $70 million as of 2016.

Under current law, Floridians who have been convicted of drug trafficking are prohibited from ever participating in SNAP and TANF if the offense occurred after August 22, 1996. This is because a 1996 federal law — part of the “War on Drugs” — requires states to impose a lifetime ban on SNAP and TANF for people with a previous drug felony conviction unless the state opts out. Florida has opted out of this ban, except for some drug trafficking offenses.

As of now, roughly 26 states have completely opted out of the SNAP ban, while 22 have completely opted out of the TANF ban. Since 2015, at least 14 states have lifted or modified their bans for one or more programs, including: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia.

Sadaf Knight, CEO of FPI, said: “People with past convictions already face a slew of barriers when they return home to their communities. Ensuring that returning citizens are treated with dignity and have equal access to food and cash assistance will help them keep food on the table and foster fiscal stability. Florida Policy Institute strongly supports this legislation, and we thank the bill sponsors, Representative Aloupis and Senator Rodriguez, for their commitment to fixing the state’s outdated ban.”

Rep. Aloupis said: “Previously incarcerated Floridians should not have to face more adversity to re-enter society. Florida should follow other states in helping these individuals get back on their feet and spend taxpayer dollars responsibly.”

Florence French Fagan, Florida organizer for Bread for the World, said: “Bread for the World has long believed that ending hunger in a lasting, sustainable way requires identifying and resolving its root causes. Ending hunger requires a holistic, comprehensive approach to all policies that support or detract from an individual or household’s ability to become financially secure for the present and future. This includes policies and programs within and outside the field of nutrition. Within the area of nutrition, lifting the ban on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would reduce the likelihood that returning citizens would fall victim to recidivism.”

Kim Johnson, president/CEO of Florida Impact to End Hunger, said: “Lifting this unfair ban will be a tool in helping returning citizens get back on their feet. Denying access to basic needs such as food only makes it more difficult to get ahead. Lifting the ban allows returning citizens to support themselves, their families, and contribute to their community and society.”

Desmond Meade, president and executive director of Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, said: "Improving our reentry system and ensuring that people can reintegrate back into the community is beneficial to everyone. When people return home from being incarcerated, instead of having access to social and economic opportunities, they’re often faced with obstacles to getting a job and supporting their families. This bill is an important step toward helping formerly incarcerated Floridians successfully rejoin their communities.”

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