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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.

Cases: 265146

Reported Deaths: 5777
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17807191
Hinds16967332
Harrison14298204
Rankin11280221
Jackson10976190
Lee9088145
Madison8619169
Jones6782118
Forrest6236124
Lauderdale6128192
Lowndes5564120
Lafayette5229101
Lamar507465
Washington4951125
Bolivar4149109
Oktibbeha409482
Panola388281
Pontotoc378560
Warren3698103
Monroe3693110
Marshall358570
Union357764
Pearl River3508106
Neshoba3499154
Leflore3122109
Lincoln307688
Hancock296362
Sunflower293075
Tate281162
Alcorn273554
Pike271081
Itawamba270063
Scott260849
Yazoo257156
Prentiss254554
Coahoma251555
Copiah250749
Tippah250150
Simpson243872
Leake238467
Marion225973
Grenada224272
Covington222473
Adams215371
Wayne215034
Winston207771
George204839
Newton200046
Attala197464
Tishomingo195661
Chickasaw189644
Jasper182538
Holmes172268
Clay167537
Tallahatchie157535
Stone152925
Clarke148662
Calhoun141822
Smith130726
Yalobusha123835
Walthall115037
Greene114529
Noxubee114126
Montgomery112736
Lawrence107617
Carroll106922
Perry105331
Amite102426
Webster97424
Claiborne89725
Tunica89321
Jefferson Davis88930
Benton86523
Humphreys84824
Kemper81020
Quitman7149
Franklin70717
Choctaw63813
Wilkinson59925
Jefferson57121
Sharkey45717
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 443009

Reported Deaths: 6662
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson649101007
Mobile31746574
Madison28413217
Tuscaloosa21566275
Montgomery20088332
Shelby19452132
Baldwin17333189
Lee13261107
Morgan12678142
Etowah12141181
Calhoun11555206
Marshall10487123
Houston9031164
Limestone838181
Cullman8296124
Elmore8243110
Lauderdale7946107
DeKalb7900107
St. Clair7876130
Talladega6523112
Walker6050183
Jackson603245
Colbert558194
Blount548586
Autauga540762
Coffee466964
Dale412785
Franklin377550
Russell358415
Chilton346873
Covington340880
Escambia339244
Tallapoosa3163109
Dallas313696
Chambers305470
Clarke303336
Pike265231
Lawrence255855
Marion254661
Winston234742
Bibb222948
Geneva213047
Marengo210531
Pickens200431
Hale186144
Barbour183438
Fayette178829
Butler174860
Cherokee166031
Henry160025
Monroe152621
Randolph146636
Washington142727
Clay130746
Crenshaw124845
Macon122837
Cleburne122125
Lamar120622
Lowndes116836
Wilcox108322
Bullock104628
Perry100518
Conecuh98022
Sumter90627
Greene77923
Coosa64018
Choctaw52124
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