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Friends: HB 1554 would restore food stamp eligibility to people who served time in prison for a drug conviction but now are clean and sober. 

Background: The federal government has enacted legislation to deny assistance and benefits to persons convicted of certain drug-related offenses. Under the federal statute an individual convicted of a felony offense involving a controlled substance is not eligible for benefits under the food stamp program. 

The federal law which restricts the food stamp benefits contains a provision allowing individual states to opt-out of this federal law. The individual states may enact a law to exempt persons from the federal restriction so that they can receive food stamp benefits. 

Representative Pettigrew primed sponsored 1554 which passed out of the House Committee On Children & Family Services in February. The bill is now in Rules and needs to be advanced to the House Floor. Representatives Roach, R-Auburn, and Boldt, R-Vancouver, voted in the minority against this bill in committee.

Action: If any of your representatives serve on the Rules Committee (see below) contact them and urge them to move House Bill 1554 to the Floor. If you are not represented directly by a member of Rules, contact Speaker Chopp, who chairs the committee and urge him to move the bill.

Points used in testimony for this bill in committee include the following:

Providing food stamps provides support people need so they can become productive members of society.  After being convicted of a drug offense, and serving time, to then be denied food stamps is unfair.  No other felon is being denied food stamps.  Murderers and molesters can get food stamps, but people with a felony drug conviction can’t.  There are people who make it out of addiction who can benefit greatly from food stamps.  The federal government funds the federal food stamp program and this will bring money to the state.  In recent studies, Washington had the second highest rate of hunger in the nation.  Many people with mental illness have drug issues as well and they have increased issues with no access to food.  Eleven other states have opted out of this provision.

Consider that this punitive approach affects not only the released drug offenders but their families as well including children. These people have served their sentences and need help to stay clean and out of trouble. But as one former felon who has been sober five years said, “…with my record, nobody is offering me any jobs that pay very much.” He got a job to support his family but the pay is low … so food stamps would help a lot.

Rules Committee Members are Frank Chopp – Chair (D),Cathy McMorris – ranking Republican member (R),Roger Bush (R),Jim
Clements (R),Richard DeBolt (R),William Eickmeyer (D),Bill Grant (D),Kathy Haigh (D),Brian Hatfield (D),Sam Hunt (D),Fred Jarrett
(R),Lynn Kessler (D),Steve Kirby (D),John Lovick (D),Joyce McDonald (R),Kirk Pearson (R),Laura Ruderman (D),Sharon Tomiko
Santos (D),Beverly Woods (R),

Contact me if you want more information. Alan Mountjoy-Venning


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How to Contact Your Legislators: 
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Senator _______________
PO Box 4048
Olympia, WA 98504-0482
Representative ___________
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600

On the web at: follow the link to the Senate or House, and click on your member’s name to get their e-mail address. 

 If you have questions, please contact Alan Mountjoy-Venning, FCWPP Lobbyist,  or by calling 360-556-2584

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