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Nebraska advances bill to lift SNAP ban for drug offenders

March 22, 2022 GMT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers took an initial step Tuesday toward repealing a state law that bars people with certain drug convictions from getting federal food assistance.

Lawmakers gave the measure first-round approval on a 25-17 vote. Two additional votes are required before it goes to Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Sen. Megan Hunt, of Omaha, said the lifetime ban makes no sense for people who committed their crimes decades ago, and she noted that it doesn’t apply to other serious crimes. Supporters have said the assistance also helps people who may have just gotten out of prison and have limited prospects.

Nebraska currently denies federal food benefits to low-income residents who have been convicted of at least three drug-possession felonies and those who have been found guilty of selling or distributing illegal drugs.

People with one or two felony drug-possession convictions can only qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, if they’re getting substance abuse treatment.

Opponents said they would try to block the bill ahead of a second-round vote, but let it advance on Tuesday so lawmakers could debate other issues.