Idaho lawmakers to debate food stamp bill

Idaho lawmakers to debate food stamp bill

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by Kim Fields

Bio | Email | Follow: @KimFieldsKTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on February 18, 2013 at 8:20 AM

Updated Monday, Feb 18 at 7:46 PM

BOISE -- Members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee are considering a bill that would change the way food stamps are distributed in Idaho.

Idaho is just one of a handful of states that issues food stamps to recipients all on one day. In Idaho they are distributed the first day of each month. However, there are some who would like to see food stamps issued over several days.

Those opposed to the one-day distribution policy say it creates too much congestion at local grocery stores. Michael Read with WinCo Foods says his company's grocery stores have to bring in additional employees, some on overtime, to deal with the extra crowds on the first day of each month.

"It becomes very very difficult to serve the customer to keep the shelves well stocked," said Read. "We've got more people stocking trying to keep the shelves full. It just creates an enormous issue for us."

The bill being considered Monday by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee says food stamps would be issued over the course of at least 10 consecutive days within the month. If the bill passes, the multi-day distribution would not take effect until 2014.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has said the price tag to make such a change would be at least $700,000 to start and more than $200,000 to maintain. The price tag has some lawmakers leery of change.

"I would like to use this money to educate people on how they can use their food stamps more efficiently and stretch them over the month," said Republican Senator Patti Ann Lodge of Huston.  "They do not have to be used on the first of the month. They can be used throughout the month."

"I have trouble seeing any benefit to the state or for that matter, I don't see a lot of benefit to the recipients," said Democratic Senator Les Bock of Garden City.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says it has been awarded bonus payments from the federal government for food stamp performance using the one-day system. However, the USDA has also since advised states to consider staggering payments because of "strain on clients ... and retailers."

Whether Idaho makes the change to staggered days is first up to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which meets Monday at 3 p.m.

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