Feds to Georgia: Do not deny Syrian refugees food stamp benefits

The U.S. Department of Agriculture warned Georgia's social services agency Wednesday that the state risked violating federal law by refusing to process food stamp benefit applications for new Syrian refugees in Georgia.

The letter from Jessica Shahin of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program could set up a legal showdown with Georgia, whose leaders joined dozens of other Republican-run states to oppose the Obama administration's resettlement program after the terror attacks in Paris.

The executive order issued by Gov. Nathan Deal on Nov. 16 instructs state agencies to halt any involvement in resettling new Syrian refugees. The Georgia Department of Human Services, which administers the benefits, issued a memorandum last week ordering its employees not to process the food stamp applications of Syrian refugees who are resettled in Georgia after Nov. 16.

Shahin's letter urges the state to "rescind this memorandum and cease this practice immediately" or risk violating the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.

"As long as an applicant submits a SNAP application that includes the applicant's name, address, and signature, the state agency must accept and process the application to be in compliance with federal law," she said.

State officials did not immediately comment on the letter, which underscores the sharpening tension in Georgia pitting leaders who raise concerns national security against the Obama administration’s contention that embracing refugees is a fundamental part of the nation’s DNA.

You can find your copy of the federal government's warning shot right here.

And here's a copy of the memo sent to state social services employees.

Read more about Georgia's approach to the Syrian refugee debate by clicking right here. 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.