Republican Congressman Steve King plans to use a new leadership position to press for a reduction in food stamps or “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” benefits.
“These benefits, call them that — nutrition benefits, are for people that need them, that are needy,” King says, “and they’re not for anyone else.”
The monthly benefit for a single food stamp recipient is just under $134.
King is the new chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees operations of the USDA, including the food stamp program. King won reelection in November by defeating Christie Vilsack, wife of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — the chief of the USDA. King says he’s worked with Vilsack before when the two were serving in the Iowa Senate and when Vilsack was governor and will be able to do so again.
“Tom Vilsack has excellent credentials and he is always well prepared and he thinks things through well,” King says. “And I’d like to think that we have mutual respect for each other’s ability even though we carry different philosophies into the arena.”
King is critical of Vilsack’s philosophy on food stamps.
“The Department of Agriculture has been advocating to push more and more SNAP benefits out and, in doing so, the argument that came from the secretary was for every dollar’s worth of food stamps you hand out, you get $1.84 in economic activity,” King says. “I completely reject that economic philosophy.”
According to King, fraud in the food stamp program needs to be addressed.
“One of the things we’ll be looking at is food stamps and the qualifications for food stamps,” King says, “and looking at how the (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card has been used for, oh, tattoos and bailing people out of jail and a number of inappropriate uses.”
In 2004 the U.S.D.A. quit issuing paper “stamps” and Americans who qualify for food stamps now get a plastic card they can swipe at the store. A Government Accountability Office audit found that from 1993 to 2010, fraud had been reduced by nearly 75 percent. About 90 percent of American households that receive food stamps live below the poverty line. For a two-person family, like a single mom with one child, the poverty line is $15,000 in annual income.