Opening Statement: Chairman K. Michael Conaway

Committee on Agriculture Hearing: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Examining State Options

Remarks as prepared:

I want to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing and thank them for being here as we continue our review of the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP. This is our twelfth hearing within this series, and we have learned a tremendous amount about the complexities of SNAP and even more about the diverse individuals and communities that it serves. As we continue our review, we will do so without preconceived notions and with a commitment to strengthen the program so it can best serve families, most efficiently utilize taxpayer dollars, and empower states to effectively implement the program while protecting program integrity.

Today, our witnesses will help us gain a better understanding of the various options and flexibility states have when implementing SNAP. Through our review we have learned that SNAP varies greatly state-to-state, and can even vary within a state. While the Federal government provides parameters for the program, SNAP’s statutes, regulations, and waivers provide state agencies with numerous policy options to adapt their programs to meet the needs of low-income people in their states. Certain options may facilitate program design goals, better target benefits to those most in need, streamline program administration and field operations, or coordinate SNAP activities with other programs for low-income families.

When carrying out the program, states determine eligibility requirements, such as income thresholds, asset limits, and work-related requirements. Through categorical eligibility, states can utilize the participation from one means-tested program, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, to defer eligibility for SNAP. When calculating and issuing monthly benefits for those eligible, states have the flexibility to determine the value of medical deductions or standard utility allowances. It is important to note SNAP does not operate in a vacuum.

When administering SNAP, states have a multitude of programs they are overseeing. As we will hear today, other programs, such as TANF and the Supplemental Security Income program have an effect on how SNAP is administered in states. It is important to look at how, as a collective whole, these programs are used by the people they serve.

As we prepare for the next farm bill, this holistic understanding of the program will be important in order to make meaningful improvements. Understanding SNAP’s interaction with other government programs and state agencies will help to maximize the effectiveness of the federal, state, and local governments as they administer SNAP. While it is important to empower states to employ the best policies to meet the needs of low-income families they serve, we as Federal lawmakers must ensure that the integrity of SNAP is maintained and not compromised for administrative efficiencies. State flexibility can be an important tool in helping a family move out of poverty, however the American taxpayer needs confidence that government programs are being targeted to those most in need.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today as we explore how to best leverage the relationship between the states and local communities to better serve recipients and utilize taxpayer dollars.