08.03.20

Congresswoman Lee, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Expand Access to TANF and SNAP to Those Who Are Unfairly Shut Out of These Programs

Congresswoman Lee joined Reps. Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) in introducing the Removing Barriers to Basic Needs Act (H.R. 7916) to lift the federal ban on individuals with felony drug convictions being able to use Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through December 2022. In response, Congresswoman Lee released the following statement:

“For many, federal assistance programs play an important role in meeting basic needs each month, including food and rent. These programs are essential for people who have been incarcerated and may have trouble finding work right away, especially during a pandemic.” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “When many people are experiencing hunger and facing the threat of eviction, instituting roadblocks for assistance is especially cruel. The Removing Barriers to Basic Needs Act will protect programs critical to the well-being of communities across the country.”

“In the midst of a pandemic, we need to remove outdated and needless barriers to assistance that folks desperately need. Our country is still grappling with the remnants of the ‘War on Drugs.’ People who have already served their time are still punished by an unjust system, which hinders their ability to access needed resources. And this permanent ban most affects women and the communities of color hit hardest by this deadly disease. Lifting this ban would help these individuals and their families to receive the stable support necessary to build a successful life after incarceration,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore.   

“There is no good reason to prevent those newly eligible for this critical assistance to overcome burdensome barriers to receive it. I’m proud to have introduced the Removing Barriers to Basic Needs Act to lift the federal TANF and SNAP ban for individuals with felony drug convictions during this public health crisis. This is the right thing to do,” said Congressman Steve Cohen.

The bill has been endorsed by over 50 national and state organizations including American Academy of HIV Medicine, American Bar Association, Center for Disability Rights Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Legal Action Center, NAACP, National Association of Social Workers, National Council of Churches, The Daniel Initiative, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Union for Reform Judaism. 

The legislation has been cosponsored by Rep Alma Adams (D-NC), Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA), Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA), Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rep. Jesus “Chuy” García (D-IL), Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia), Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Bill Pascrell,Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL),  Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rep. David Trone (D-MD), Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT)

The text of the bill can be found here.