Which states have a lifetime ban on public assistance and food stamps?

The 1996 federal welfare law prohibits anyone convicted of a drug-related felony from receiving federally funded food stamps (also known as SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and cash assistance (also known as TANF - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). This is a lifetime ban-- even if someone has completed his or her sentence, overcome an addiction, been employed but got laid off, or earned a certificate of rehabilitation. States can maintain the federal lifetime ban on cash assistance and food stamps, but they also have the option of passing legislation to limit the ban or eliminate it altogether.

Most states restrict at least some people with drug felony convictions from being eligible for federally funded public assistance and food stamps.  

• 9 states have adopted the federal drug felon ban without modification. They permanently deny benefits, even if a crime occurred years before or the person has been treated and rehabilitated.

• 33 states have limited the ban in some way to enable those with drug felony convictions to get public assistance if they met certain conditions, such as participating in alcohol or drug treatment, meeting the waiting period, having a “possession only” conviction, or satisfying other conditions.

• Only 9 states have eliminated the ban entirely.

Copyright © 2008-2009 by the Legal Action Center. All Rights Reserved.