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Mo. Senate bill would lift food stamp ban

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – Legislation in the State Senate would remove a lifetime ban on food stamp eligibility for those convicted of drug crimes in Missouri.

Under the federal welfare reform act passed in the 1990's, anyone convicted of a felony drug offense is forever barred from receiving food stamps. States are allowed to opt out of the ban, but Missouri is one of several that have not.

State Senator Yvonne Wilson (D, Kansas City) says being banned for life from receiving food stamps harms those who've turned their lives around.

"I think it's just unfortunate that we don't look at the real impact that this (has) on some people, allowing them to be able to eat," Wilson said.

The bill failed in the past because it would have made convicted drug dealers eligible for food stamps. But Wilson says this year's legislation would only lift the ban for those convicted of felony drug possession and use.

She wants lawmakers to take up her bill before the current legislative session ends next month.

"I've asked, and that's the best I can do...I guess for some reason, the legislators don't want to bring it forward," Wilson said.

The bill has sat idle since its lone committee hearing in in mid-February.