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Mississippi: Food aid OK for people with drug convictions

Mississippi will start allowing people with felony drug convictions to apply for federal food assistance.

Posted: May 2, 2019 3:19 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi will start allowing people with felony drug convictions to apply for federal food assistance.

The new policy takes effect July 1 and could affect as many as 67,000 people, the Clarion Ledger reported.

Lawmakers approved the change earlier this year in a bill aimed at shrinking the prison population and cutting the number of people who return to prison.

A 1996 federal law put a lifetime ban on people convicted of state or federal drug felonies from receiving aid from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often known as food stamps, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, cash welfare. However, state legislatures could opt out of the ban.

Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia were the only states that had not opted out.

Republican Sen. Sally Doty of Brookhaven pushed for the change. She said eligible SNAP participants must meet income requirements and either have a job or participate in workforce training or classes to earn a high school equivalency diploma. With the ban in place, the education and job training programs were unavailable to people with drug felony records.

"I saw no reason to treat drug felons differently than those with violent offenses," Doty said. "And the ban had a larger effect on women, who generally have lower-paying jobs and could greatly benefit from the education and training programs, as well as the nutritional support. The overall goal is for anyone who has previously been incarcerated or struggled with addiction to become productive members of our communities."

SNAP provides monthly benefits to help low-income households buy food. The federal program is administered by the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

Department of Human Services staff attorney Dewitt Fortenberry said the agency can't say with certainty how many more people will qualify because of the change.

However, the nonprofit Mississippi Center for Justice said as of 2017, an estimated 67,376 Mississippians who had state drug felony convictions could be affected by the federal SNAP ban at some point. Based on 2011 figures, an estimated 5,200 women statewide could be impacted by the TANF ban during their lifetimes.

The SNAP program is federally funded, and Mississippi receives about $60 million a month for it.

The maximum monthly household income limit for a family of four is $2,665 and the maximum monthly SNAP payment would be $640.

Mississippi Center for Justice said lifting the SNAP and TANF drug felony ban in Mississippi could decrease recidivism. The center said a lifetime ban heightens hunger, unemployment and economic instability, especially for women and their families.

"One in five Mississippians and one in four children statewide are hungry — the highest in the nation," said Kathryn Rehner, a policy associate for the center. "Lifting the SNAP/TANF drug felony ban will help put food on the table for thousands of children and families in our state while increasing access to workforce training and helping reentering citizens find work and stability."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 65436

Reported Deaths: 1848
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5487116
DeSoto352328
Madison238763
Harrison237835
Rankin222032
Jackson220142
Jones184258
Forrest172155
Washington158237
Lauderdale139090
Lee133232
Neshoba127891
Lamar118414
Bolivar116333
Oktibbeha109037
Lowndes103935
Warren100731
Scott98720
Panola98012
Sunflower96723
Copiah94128
Lafayette93714
Leflore89362
Pike87734
Holmes86348
Grenada83021
Yazoo80712
Pontotoc7918
Lincoln79041
Leake77925
Simpson77930
Wayne74921
Monroe74751
Coahoma69711
Tate69227
Marion63819
Marshall6389
Covington60713
Winston60415
Adams60225
Union56215
George5484
Newton53511
Pearl River52037
Attala51324
Walthall48919
Noxubee44411
Chickasaw44119
Tallahatchie40710
Calhoun4009
Claiborne39913
Smith39413
Prentiss3869
Alcorn3825
Clay38214
Jasper3819
Hancock36314
Tishomingo3505
Itawamba33710
Tippah32513
Clarke32425
Tunica3176
Montgomery3073
Yalobusha30710
Lawrence3067
Humphreys28211
Carroll25411
Quitman2401
Greene23111
Kemper22815
Jefferson Davis2266
Amite2206
Perry2207
Webster21612
Jefferson1946
Wilkinson19413
Sharkey1903
Stone1633
Benton1330
Choctaw1304
Franklin1162
Issaquena251
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12486232
Mobile9420204
Montgomery6449148
Madison516130
Tuscaloosa405769
Baldwin338023
Unassigned319060
Shelby316432
Marshall306034
Lee258844
Morgan229517
Etowah204128
DeKalb174513
Calhoun167213
Elmore167238
Walker149864
Houston134812
Dallas130523
St. Clair128915
Russell12772
Limestone126113
Franklin123820
Cullman118912
Colbert114113
Lauderdale112315
Autauga105021
Escambia104416
Talladega96713
Jackson9244
Tallapoosa84179
Chambers83538
Dale80223
Blount7593
Butler75635
Chilton7456
Coffee7365
Covington71620
Pike6877
Lowndes56724
Barbour5655
Marion56224
Marengo53614
Clarke4949
Hale46426
Bullock45011
Winston44011
Perry4364
Wilcox41410
Bibb4134
Monroe4084
Randolph39410
Conecuh37810
Pickens3779
Sumter36018
Lawrence3321
Macon32013
Washington32012
Crenshaw3123
Choctaw27712
Cherokee2587
Greene24911
Henry2493
Geneva2480
Clay2375
Lamar2122
Fayette1835
Cleburne1251
Coosa1012
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