Lincoln mom advocates for drug felons to receive SNAP benefits

As the expiration date for the nations Farm Bill nears, one Lincoln mom, who is a a drug felon, is advocating for changes to restrictions.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 7:10 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - As the expiration date for the nations Farm Bill nears, one Lincoln mom, who is a a drug felon, is advocating for changes to restrictions when it comes to those benefits by taking it to Capitol Hill.

After two decades, 39-year-old Kayla Tobey is still facing obstacles after serving time in prison for a drug related crime. The biggest of them all is not qualifying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits (SNAP).

Tobey was just 19 years old when she was banned from receiving snap benefits.

“When people get out of prison, they’re supposed to, they’re expected to do all of these things, and it becomes overwhelming, and there’s so many barriers that people have,” she said.

Tobey took a trip to Capitol Hill two weeks ago, along with representatives from Nebraska Appleseed, to meet with U.S. Senators Deb Fischer and Pete Ricketts, and Congressmen Mike Flood and Don Bacon to tell them her story.

“These people are still struggling with, you know, having jobs and getting back on their feet,” Tobey said.

Megan Hamann, economic justice community organizer for Nebraska Appleseed said, ”I think it’s incredibly important to bring people who are really living the impacts of our current laws to our lawmakers so that they can hear firsthand what it’s like to be experiencing some of the negative experiences that can come from our legislation, and ideally make change.”

People with felony drug convictions are under a lifetime federal ban from receiving SNAP benefits.

Nebraska Appleseed said the law was passed in 1996 and currently impacts about 20,000 Nebraskans, including their children and families.

“We were talking about the Restore Act, which would be part of the new Farm Bill, Tobey said. “It would allow people like me who have convictions that have to do with drug distribution to be allowed food stamps again.”

Tobey is a mother to two children and said while she is disqualified from SNAP benefits, her two children are eligible and do receive benefits. However, since she doesn’t qualify and those benefits are based off of a person’s income, her kids only receive a couple hundred dollars a month.

“All of my income is counted, and my two children are counted, but I am not counted,” Tobey said.

Tobey said she’s hoping to change the narrative surrounding those with drug convictions so that they can get the help they need in order to turn their lives around.

At the state level, State Senator Megan Hunt introduced Legislative Bill 88 during the last legislative session to change the provisions relating to eligibility for SNAP benefits.

Senator Hunt’s office said the bill will carry over into the next session, and Senator Hunt will continue to re-introduce the bill until it’s either passed or she’s termed out of the legislature.