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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 197-00
April 19, 2000

SECRETARY COHEN STATEMENT ON FOOD STAMP BENEFITS

Recent reports describing proposals to amend eligibility requirements for military members receiving food stamps have sent mixed signals to a variety of people, most importantly our men and women in uniform. Let me set the record straight.

This issue is about equity for our people. I support military men and women receiving every federal benefit to which they are entitled. Current Department of Agriculture rules allow military members residing in on-base housing to frequently qualify for food stamps, while their peers receiving a cash housing allowance and renting quarters in the private sector do not. I think this is wrong. I will work with the Agriculture Department leadership to amend current rules so as to exclude the cash housing allowance paid to our people living off-base from the computation for eligibility. This will provide the equity in pay and benefits we must maintain, while retaining the food stamp benefit for those who truly need it.

We have made great progress in quality of life issues for our military men and women - pay increases, pay table reform, restoration of the twenty-year retirement, improvements in health care, and more generous allowances for off-base housing. We can do no less. I think this proposed change to the eligibility procedures for food stamps is one more way that we can further improve that quality of life and I will work vigorously for its implementation.

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