State Rep. Justin Boyd will soon introduce a proposal to study a new welfare reform program in Maine — one that places limits on what Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps) benefits can be used to buy.
Boyd, a pharmacist, said he learned about Maine’s efforts in this area while a member of the Health Care Legislative Task Force. Boyd said the proposal is “worth discussing.”
We tend to be 49th or 50th in health overall (in the nation) in obesity…diabetes. Maine looked at that approach and I felt like, you know, with where we are in health — if there’s a way we can influence it in a positive way…I think we should take a look at it.
It comes back to: we need to be competitive for business. Do you want to expand your business or move your business here if you’re going to have higher than normal health costs because you have a population that’s less healthy than other populations?
I thought it was a unique approach — and that, at a minimum, it’s worth discussing.
Last year, Maine proposed legislation (which failed) that would ban the purchase via SNAP benefits of “food of no nutritional value.”
Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s administration also sought a waiver from the federal government later on in 2015 that would block SNAP recipients from using the benefits to purchase soda and candy. It’s not likely to be approved while President Obama is in office.
However, it’s interesting that states as conservative as Texas and as liberal as Vermont have shown interest in pursuing similar proposals. Perhaps Texans think using welfare to purchase a candy bar isn’t a proper use of the benefit, while citizens of Vermont only want SNAP recipients to purchase gluten-free, free-range products fresh out of the Farmers’ Market.
You can read the interim study proposal here. The Economic and Tax Policy committee will consider this interim study proposal Friday morning.