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Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter

Representing the 1st District of New Hampshire

Shea-Porter Statement on H.R. 2792, the CUFF Act

September 28, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) released the following statement after voting “no” on H.R. 2792, the misleadingly titled Control Unlawful Fugitive Felons (CUFF) Act:

“I could not vote for this bill because it would take Supplemental Security Income benefits away from tens of thousands of elderly people and people with mental health issues or disabilities because they have outdated or dormant warrants that, in the majority of cases, law enforcement does not pursue. Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Richard Neal says: ‘Despite the title of the bill, the seniors and people with severe disabilities who would be harmed by this bill are not felons, as the Chairman acknowledged at our markup.’”

 

BACKGROUND

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is currently restricted from distributing any Social Security payments to those otherwise eligible if they are considered “fleeing felons.” Court cases helped settle the definition of what constituted a “crime of flight” in 2009 and 2010. Since that time, SSA has withheld benefits from those “fleeing to avoid prosecution, or custody or confinement after conviction” for a felony or violating a condition of probation or parole.

The CUFF Act would return to an older, outdated definition for “fleeing felons” that would effectively cut off tens of thousands of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients with outdated or dormant warrants that law enforcement generally does not pursue.  This change applies to SSI only, not to Social Security’s retirement or disability programs. SSI is a means tested federal income supplement primarily designed to help very low income older, blind, and disabled Americans meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.  As such, this change would directly impact the most vulnerable.

This is a fact that even the bill’s proponents have acknowledged. According to Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Richard Neal: “Despite the title of the bill, the seniors and people with severe disabilities who would be harmed by this bill are not felons, as the Chairman acknowledged at our markup. They are people who have been accused of a felony, or accused of a parole of probation violation. They have not been tried or convicted of the offense underlying the warrant. In many instances, they are not even accused of committing a felony, as probation can result from a misdemeanor offense alone.”