New Bill Could End Loophole That Gives Food Stamps to Millionaires

Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility, or BBCE, is a loophole in food stamps that allows states to completely bypass federal income limits and ignore applicants’ assets like cash, boats, and RVs when handing out benefits. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia are utilizing this loophole, and it’s resulted in millions of people receiving food stamps who shouldn’t be.

This is also how millionaires end up receiving food stamps.

It comes at a cost: resources lost that should be going to the truly needy and taxpayer dollars stretched thin. The food stamp program has been expanded far beyond what was originally intended. The number of food stamp recipients has more than doubled from 17.1 million in 2000 to 41.1 million in 2022, and the cost of these benefits has exploded from $17 billion to $119 billion. As the welfare state grows and as long as states avoid asset checks, enrollment and spending are only going to increase.

While it would behoove states to act on their own, legislation in the U.S. House could mean we don’t need to wait for states to wise up. Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA) has introduced legislation, the No Welfare for the Wealthy Act, to eliminate this loophole and require states to go back to the asset and income limits that are federal law.

To protect our food stamp safety net and prevent states from abusing the BBCE loophole, Congress should pass Rep. Cline’s bill.

Fortunately for Washington, this reform is popular.

According to the Center for Excellence in Polling, 73 percent of all likely voters strongly or somewhat support checking food stamp applicants’ available financial assets, such cash in the bank, to make sure they are truly eligible. This includes two-thirds of Democrats (66 percent) and nearly three-quarters of Independents (73 percent) and women in all political parties (73 percent).

And 72 percent strongly or somewhat support closing the BBCE loophole that allows individuals with higher income and financial resources to collect food stamps, including a wide swath of Republicans (78 percent), Democrats (68 percent), Independents (69 percent), and women (71 percent) regardless of party affiliation.