Illinois House bill would allow fast-food restaurants to accept food stamps

Illinois House bill would allow fast-food restaurants to accept food stamps

Homeless, disabled and elderly Illinoisans who can’t easily cook a meal could get help by using food stamps at fast-food restaurants.

Low-income Illinoisans who are homeless, disabled or older might soon be able to use their food stamps at a fast-food restaurant.

House Bill 3343 would establish the Restaurant Meals Program as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services. The program would allow those enrolled in SNAP to use their benefits on meals at fast-food restaurants.

The bill passed the Illinois House of Representatives on March 23 and is now making its way through the Illinois Senate.

Currently, SNAP recipients can purchase food at grocery stores and farmers markets, but not at restaurants.

Proponents of the bill say food stamp recipients have limited options for a hot meal.

“Somebody who’s homeless, for example, they don’t have a place to prepare that food or somebody who’s disabled, they’re not able to come home and cook a meal themselves,” state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, told WICS-TV.

While he favors the bill, he isn’t without his concerns.

“The prices of foods at restaurants are higher than what it might be at the grocery store and so, there’s a little bit of a trade-off there. So we want to make sure people aren’t running out of benefits at the end of the month,” Demmer told the TV station.

If signed into law, Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020, would join California and Arizona in allowing food stamp recipients to use their benefits at restaurants. Both states currently allow benefits to be used at Subway and Jack in the Box. Florida and Rhode Island have pilot programs, and Maryland is considering a bill similar to Illinois’.

The state would need to certify restaurants to participate, just as grocery stores are now under SNAP. The Restaurant Meals Program would be available to low-income Illinois residents who are homeless, disabled, over 60 and their spouses.

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