Tell Your Legislators & Gov. DeSantis to End the Lifetime Ban on SNAP & TANF for Certain Returning Citizens

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Some Floridians with past convictions are barred from ever receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits if the offense occurred after August 22, 1996. This is because a federal law passed in 1996 — one of the draconian “War on Drugs” laws that is, unfortunately, still on the books today — requires states to impose a lifetime ban on food and cash assistance for people with a previous drug felony conviction unless the state opts out. Florida has opted out of this ban, except for some drug trafficking offenses.

Thankfully, advocates across Florida are pushing forward a policy proposal that would lift this outdated state ban on SNAP and TANF for people with past drug trafficking convictions, a move that would reduce these individuals’ chances of reincarceration, help ensure a smoother transition into their communities, and save millions in taxpayers dollars.

Both SNAP and TANF are modest but critical safety net programs that help people with low income meet basic needs. SNAP helps households buy food, while TANF provides families who care for children with short-term financial assistance. In Florida, the average monthly SNAP benefit per person is $127, while TANF averages $237 per month for the entire family. The federal government pays 100 percent of the cost of the SNAP benefits that Florida provides to eligible households. For TANF, the state receives a fixed block grant from the federal government, although the state must also contribute some of its own funds to the program.

Since 2015, at least 18 states have lifted or modified their bans for one or more programs, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and West Virginia.

Florida’s stance on criminal justice needs sustainable change. Ending the lifetime ban would be an important step in fostering fiscal stability for returning citizens and helping them contribute to their communities upon reentry. Tell your legislators and Governor DeSantis that Florida should be next to get rid of this outdated and counterproductive ban.

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