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Illinois Lawmakers Approve Plan To Allow Some Food Stamp Recipients To Use Benefits At Restaurants

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois state lawmakers have approved legislation that would allow food stamp recipients who are elderly, disabled, or homeless to use their benefits to eat at restaurants.

The legislation would add Illinois to the federal Restaurant Meals Program, which allows certain people who receive food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to use them at participating restaurants.

To be approved for the program, restaurants must offer low-cost options on their menu. They also may not accept SNAP payments as tips.

Without the Restaurant Meals Program available in their states, food stamp recipients can only use their benefits to buy groceries -- but not hot meals -- at retail stores.

The Illinois Senate approved the measure Friday by a 48-1 vote. The House approved the legislation by a 75-18 vote in March.

The legislation will now go to the governor. If the governor signs the legislation, it would go into effect by Jan. 1 of next year.

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