By: Joel Gehrke
Two Senate Republicans identified a welfare loophole that allows ‘paid government volunteers’ in AmeriCorps to receive food stamps from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — for which they should not qualify, as a rule — in addition to a stipend from the government.
“The role of the SNAP program isn’t to provide additional money to paid government volunteers; it is to help feed hungry American families,” Sen. John Thune, R-N.D., said in a statement today. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee added that “we’ve learned that a separate government agency—whose mission is to encourage volunteerism and community service—is using a loophole to further expand welfare enrollment without regard to need or qualification.”
The two lawmakers wrote a letter to Wendy Spencer, CEO of Corporation for National Service, to ask about officials encouraging volunteers to double-dip — to receive food stamps and the stipend. Under current law, a person can only receive both if he or she was already receiving food stamps before joining the volunteer program.
Some officials across the country, though, are helping people get both. “You can (and it is highly encouraged) that you apply and become eligible in your local community [for food stamps] and then transfer your benefits,” the senators quote “an official state government website” in Montana as telling prospective volunteers [sic].
“Instructions like these raise concerns regarding . . . CNCS’s potential role in what appears to be a deliberate effort to game SNAP program eligibility rules and use the program improperly,” they also wrote.