By Erica Young
West Virginia Press Association Capitol Reporter
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia may soon be the next state to opt out of a federal law prohibiting those convicted of a substance-related felony to receive supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits. West Virginia, South Carolina, and Mississippi are currently the only states where the ban is still in effect.
The Senate Health and Human Resources Committee discussed SB 394 today, which would make this so.
Counsel Cindy Dellinger explained that the bill would allow more federal SNAP dollars to come to West Virginia because more people would be eligible for the program. She also explained that this bill is designed to reduce the numbers of reoffenders as convicted felons are more likely to go back to prison upon release when they do not have access to programs like this that can help them. Those on probation or house arrest would still be eligible as well.
Senator Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said it is important to him that people convicted of all felonies, even those not involving drugs, were not banned from receiving the benefits.
He said, “I didn’t appreciate the fact that the ban was so narrow in the federal law.”
Ultimately, the bill was tabled until the next reading due to a similar bill about to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee. Committee Chair Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, said he plans to speak with House Judiciary Committee Chair John Shott, R-Mercer, to see where that bill stands before reaching a final decision.