Connectictut Gov. Dannel Malloy blasted Speaker John Boehner as "disingenuous at best and shameful at worst" on Monday for calling some states cheaters and frauds because they are thwarting congressional efforts to reduce food-stamp payments.
"Congress wrote the bill. Congress passed the bill. And now states are implementing the law, your reprehensible comments notwithstanding," Democrat Malloy wrote in his letter to the speaker.
"Furthermore, your demonization of states that have elected to provide this benefit impugns the children, the elderly, the disabled, the low-wage workers, and veterans who receive such aid by implying that they are a party to something criminal," Malloy stated.
"Any governor who chooses to undermine the bipartisan reforms in the farm bill is weakening the critical home-heating program and taking money out of every American taxpayer's pocket," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in response to Malloy's letter.
At issue are efforts by Malloy and the governors in Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont to maintain current levels of food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Those moves could affect portions of the recently passed farm bill aimed at saving $8.6 billion over the next 10 years.
The farm bill's much-touted reductions were brought about largely by changing eligibility requirements for food stamps, which are based in some cases on eligibility for low-income heating assistance provided by the states. As many as 17 states could pay out as little as $1 to recipients to boost that person's eligibility for food aid. The farm bill changed that requirement to at least $20.01, and the assumption was that the federal funding for the food-stamps program would decrease as a result.
Yet in an effort to avoid the cuts, Connecticut officials have shifted an added $1.4 million of funds available under the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program to meet the new threshold. The move is expected to preserve about $66.6 million in annual food-stamp benefits for households in Connecticut.
And other states have said they are pursuing or considering similar efforts.
Malloy, in his letter on Monday, noted that media accounts have quoted Boehner as responding, "Since the passage of the farm bill, states have found ways to cheat, once again, on signing up people for food stamps.... And so I would hope the House would act to try and stop this cheating and this fraud from continuing."
But Malloy pointed out that his state and others are implementing an option spelled out in the law.
"To characterize as cheating and fraud states' implementation of this provision is disingenuous at best and shameful at worst," Malloy wrote. "Congress intended to grant states the authority to provide this vital benefit, which is a lifeline to some of our most vulnerable constituents."
"To the contrary, I think most would argue that denying residents of my state $112 a month in nutrition assistance is morally wrong," he stated.
This article appears in the March 18, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.