Chairperson Sen. Howard and Health and Human Services Committee Board Members
District #9, Room 1402 State Capitol
PO Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509

February 19, 2020 

RE: LB 1038

Dear Senator Howard and Health & Human Services Committee Board Members,

My name is Jasmine L. Harris. I am the Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for RISE. We are a non-profit that works with people who are currently and formerly incarcerated. We run a six-month program that focuses on employment readiness, character development and entrepreneurship. We serve people incarcerated at seven of the Nebraska Correctional Facilities with this program and offer reentry case management services as people return home. 

RISE would like to be on record in support of LB 1038 and ask that committee members vote this bill to general file. The sole purpose of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is to provide nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families . However, the US Congress enacted The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 that put a lifetime ban on people with felony drug convictions from receiving SNAP benefits. Congress also gave states the ability to opt out of these requirements, but Nebraska continues to operate in a modified version of this program. 

Working with individuals as they are returning home after incarceration puts RISE in a position to witness firsthand the struggles many encounter trying to adjust back to life outside of a correctional facility.  Coming out of incarceration to no employment is a barrier on its own. This is one of the barriers that then begets more barriers. With no source of income, we have individuals who now have to address other barriers like food insecurity, which is being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Someone coming out of incarceration with no means to provide nutrition to themselves should qualify for this program without restrictions based on conviction type. 

Although there are food banks across Nebraska, many are concentrated in the more populated areas of the state. We have people who release from incarceration to rural areas of the state that either do not have a food bank or the food bank has limited operating dates and times.  LB 1038 will remove this barrier of food insecurity for a portion of the population we work with and allow them to access food from dependable sources like stores that have normal operating times and quality, nutritious food. 

As part of RISE’s policy plan, we are working towards successful policy and legislative changes at all levels of government that impact the daily lives of people impacted by the system and their families for economic and social outcomes that include employment, housing, transportation, education, living conditions and civic participation. Securing SNAP benefits to help an individual sustain life while getting their lives on track is one of the things we believe is essential to the success of people as they return home. Removing any significant barriers to obtaining life’s basic necessities is a priority for our organization and the people we serve. 

Again, we ask that you vote LB 1038 out of committee to general file. 

Jasmine L. Harris, MPH, CHES
Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, RISE