Congressman Al Green Supports Amendment Protecting Access to Food Stamp Program

May 23, 2006 Issues: Social Security

(Washington, DC)--Congressman Al Green (TX-09), today, in a statement on the House floor expressed his support for an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill that would protect access to the Food Stamp Program.  The amendment prohibits state agencies from making operational changes to the Food Stamp Program that would increase by 20 percent the volume of applications submitted by mail, phone, or internet.  Texas and Florida have implemented such changes as a means of saving money, and several other states are considering similar measures.

Since its inception, the Food Stamp Program has required state agencies to conduct personal interviews with applicants to ensure benefits are provided to qualified households, and to enable trained caseworkers to identify the special needs of each applicant.  Texas and Florida are now implementing alternative application methods through mail, phone, and the internet, to save money, rather than to expand access.  As a result, these states will shut down 35 to 50 percent of their local offices, with a commensurate cut in staff. 

A USDA review of the Texas telephone call centers found that waits of 20 minutes were common, 44 percent of calls were abandoned and clients were frequently given confusing, contradictory or erroneous information.  Green voiced concern that these programmatic changes were implemented quickly, without contingency plans or sufficient testing, serving to block access to food stamps for individuals most dependent on the program. 

On the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Al Green made the following statement:

"Mr. Speaker, I speak on behalf of children, the elderly, the disabled and those not here to speak for themselves.  Because if they were here to speak for themselves, they would tell you about the 20 minute phone waits, they would tell you about the phone calls that have been abandoned because they had to wait too long.  They would tell you about the inability to use the phone because they cant speak; the inability to use the phone because they cant hear. They would tell you about the lack of computer access and the lack of computer literacy. This amendment assures a user friendly system for some of our most vulnerable Americans.  I speak for them, I stand for them, I cast my vote for them."

The amendment, which Congressman Al Green sponsored with Representatives Joe Baca (CA-43) and Lloyd Doggett (TX-25), was withdrawn during the floor debate.