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Bills To Expand Food-Stamp Eligibility Introduced

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Washington--A measure that would make it easier for poor families to receive food stamps has been introduced in the House. An identical bill is expected to to be introduced in the Senate this week.

"Hunger in America is not a political issue," Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and a sponsor of Senate bill, said last week. "It is truly a moral issue."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food-stamp program, estimates that half of the approximately 19.3 million Americans who participate in the entitlement program each month are under the age of 18.

A family of four with a household income of up to about $15,700 can receive a maximum of $331 in food stamps a month.

About 40 percent of the recipients live in households that earn less than half the federal poverty level, which is $12,100 for a family of four.

The bill would exclude the first $50 a month paid as child support from consideration as income in determining food-stamp allotments. It would also raise benefit levels and give more relief to families that pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent.

The House and Senate bills are named for the late Representative Mickey Leland, a Texas Democrat who played a major role in hunger legislation. Mr. Leland died in a plane crash last year while on a trip investi8gating the famine in Ethiopia.

A separate bill, which may be introduced in the Senate this week, would increase funding for the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The Children's Defense Fund has estimated that only about half of the low-income infants, children, and mothers who are eligible are served.

The bill, which contains many of the same provisions as the measure introduced to honor Mr. Leland, would cost $2.4 billion to implement over three years.

The second Senate bill may also contain provisions to expand the child-nutrition programs that provide in-school meals and snacks, Senate aides said.--ef

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