Military family advocates are pushing an initiative in the House fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would help junior service members with larger families purchase adequate groceries, Military Times reported Thursday.
The provision, called the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance initiative, would allow some junior service members with larger families to qualify for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Benefits, or SNAP, by deducting their basic housing allowance (BAH) and in turn reduce their total income to qualify, according to the report.
If signed into law, the provision would help junior service members with larger families meet federal income levels that would otherwise disqualify them when their BAH is included as income, according to Military.com.
A Congressional Budget office analysis of the proposal estimated that 10,200 qualifying service members would receive an average allowance of $400 each month through the provision, according to the report.
The CBO also estimated allowing the service members to deduct the allowances would cost DOD about $175 million over the four years from fiscal 2021 through fiscal 2024.
The House version addresses only fiscal 2020, authorizing an additional $15 million for the allowance for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The provision is not included in the Senate legislation but advocates are pushing to include it in the final bill that comes out of conference committee negotiations.
According to a 2016 Government Accountability Office report, more than 23,000 active-duty troops used SNAP, once known as food stamps, in 2013.
“No child should go hungry, let alone a child of our service members, yet that is a reality of thousands of military families,” Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), a sponsor of the provision, told reporters during a press call last week.
She highlighted expensive areas such as the San Diego where the cost of living is high, and though service members get a housing allowance, many younger families experience financial difficulty.
“The military pay system is not designed for junior enlisted members with families in high cost areas,” Davis said.