Durbin Presses USDA Official On Food Stamp Eligibility For Illinois' Seniors

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today pressed Brandon Lipps, the Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), about whether he would commit to maintain Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at residential facilities for low-income elderly and disabled people, which USDA has sought to strip in recent years in Illinois.  In Illinois, there are nearly 150 supportive senior living facilities that rely on SNAP to provide food assistance for the 8,000 low-income people served in these community-based settings.  Durbin and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) secured an 18-month delay in the 2018 Farm Bill from any USDA action to strip these Illinois facilities from SNAP participation and eligibility.

“For 20 years, USDA has approved this model—certifying these facilities to administer the SNAP benefits for residents, so that those who qualify for the nutrition assistance can have a good, warm meal with their friends. Now, all of a sudden, USDA thinks there is a problem, maybe even a scandal, and that these facilities are out of compliance,” Durbin said. “We have looked at the rules and statutory definition of ‘food’ under SNAP, and I think USDA has found the wrong scandal. In fact, I think there’s no scandal. To put it simply, you’re missing the point. People are just trying to feed 8,000 needy people who can get together for lunch in a supportive facility.”

During today’s Agriculture Committee hearing, Durbin secured important commitments from Acting Deputy Lipps that he will ensure these seniors and persons with disabilities are not stripped of their SNAP benefits, and that there is no question as to their eligibility for SNAP.

Video of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here for TV Stations.