Congress introduced a provision in its omnibus spending bill that will require states to reissue stolen food assistance amid nationwide benefits thefts.

The federal government does not currently require states to replace stolen funds from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Though federal law prohibited states from using federal funds to reimburse victims, states have been able to use their own funds — but most do not, including Maryland.

“It’s a holiday miracle,” said Maryland U.S. Rep. Charles Albert “Dutch” Ruppersberger.

The 4,000 page omnibus, which funds the federal government through fiscal year 2023, includes $153 billion for the SNAP program. If passed as drafted, the provision would require states to reissue benefits for funds “stolen through card skimming, card cloning or similar fraudulent methods” from Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2024.

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Last month, Ruppersberger proposed a similar bill to Congress that would indefinitely enable states to reissue stolen food assistance with federal funds. The bill was inspired, in part, by reporting from The Banner.

“Congressman Ruppersberger’s bill, H.R. 9319, would create a permanent solution by enabling states to use their federal SNAP allocations to reissue stolen benefits,” said Ruppersberger’s office in a press release.

Marylanders have been particularly affected by benefits theft, with over $1 million of SNAP and cash assistance stolen as of October 2022. Neither the omnibus bill nor Ruppersberger’s bill applies to cash assistance.

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