Vitter Introduces Welfare Reform Amendments to Farm Bill

One amendment would end the out-of-control, fraud-ridden welfare cell phone program, the other would eliminate food stamps for sex offenders and murderers

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator David Vitter today introduced two amendments to the Farm Bill in the U.S. Senate. The first would end the welfare subsidy for mobile phone service in the Lifeline Program. Vitter has already introduced this legislation as a standalone bill. The second amendment would prohibit convicted murderers, rapists, and pedophiles from receiving food stamps.

“The cell phone welfare program has expanded far beyond its original intent, and as so many middle class Americans struggle underneath this economy, it is really offensive for Washington to make folks pay for free cell phones for others,” Vitter said. “It’s an entitlement program gone mad.”

Click here to watch a video of Sen. Vitter introducing these amendments on the Senate floor.

The Lifeline Program was created in 1984 to expand landline services for low-income households through the Universal Service Fund (USF). The program supporting mobile phones was expanded in 2008 to include wireless service providers. The program for wireless has grown from $143 million in 2008 to nearly $2 billion in 2012.

Over the weekend, one of the Lifeline Programs biggest beneficiaries, TracFone, ran an advertisement attacking Sen. Vitter’s legislation. Yesterday Vitter responded in a letter thanking them for calling more attention to the program. Click here to read the letter.

Vitter’s second amendment today would prohibit convicted murderers, rapists, and pedophiles from receiving food stamps. Under current law, there is a lifetime ban for convicted drug felons, though many states have opted out of or modified that ban. Vitter’s amendment would extend the lifetime food stamp ban to dangerous sex offenders and murderers.

Recently the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office released an audit on the federally-funded Louisiana food stamp program. The audit covered the fiscal years from 2010 to 2012 and found that there were duplicate and overpayments of millions. The results show that more than $1.1 million was issued to 1,761 people who were in prison, 322 people gained benefits even though their wages exceeded $50,000, and 3,060 people used $2 million worth of benefits in a state other than Louisiana.

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