Views on Proposed Food Stamp Program Legislation in S. 884]

Gao ID: B-202967 April 29, 1981

GAO views on the proposed Food Stamp Program legislation in S. 884 were presented. Title XII of this bill offers substantial opportunities for cost savings in the program. It incorporates a number of recommendations that GAO had previously made and would make several changes that food stamp officials at the State and local levels had frequently requested to improve program management. Purchase requirements would be reinstated. These would apply when an applicant household's income was low enough to qualify for food stamps but not low enough to be eligible for the entire allotment amount considered sufficient for adequate nutrition for the household for the month. The bill would make basic changes in the benefit structure of the program to recognize the fact that not all persons require the same food intake. It would adjust benefits according to age and sex of household members. While GAO agreed with the basic concept, it suggested that it should be tested before it was adopted nationally. Sections of the bill would remove current barriers to treating low-income energy assistance cash payments and food stamp benefits as household income. States would be required to establish a workfare program in which food stamp recipients would have to work at public service jobs for the value of their food stamp benefits. The bill would substitute a 40-hour work week criteria for the earned income exemption now in effect for the demonstration projects. The law gives new workfare referrals a 30-day job search period before they can be assigned to workfare jobs. GAO believes that the provision that would allow verified job search activities of up to 8 hours a week as a credit for work performed could greatly inhibit the effectiveness of the work requirement. The bill would allow State agencies to help workfare participants obtain suitable employment outside the workfare program and increase the penalties for recipient fraud.

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