Saturday, May 18, 2013

Faith Community, Charitable Organizations Join Their Voices to Oppose Cuts In SNAP

On Thursday (May 16), the House Agriculture Committee voted 36-10 to approve a farm bill that would cut about $21 billion in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  (and also makes deep cuts in international food aid). This is not good news in a year when we're fighting hard to maintain funding for safety-net programs in our country.  The measure--officially known as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013--now goes to the House leadership, which would schedule a floor vote.

The cuts to SNAP are deeper in the  House Agriculture Committee's version of the farm bill than the reductions made in the Senate Agriculture Committee.  The Senate panel cut funding for food stamps by about $4.1 billion. Read comments from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a member of the committee, following the passage of the Senate version of the farm bill.

As Bread for the World and Sen. Gillibrand point out, domestic nutrition programs such as SNAP are the first line of defense against hunger and have proven effective in decreasing food insecurity during a weakened economy.

An analysis from Bread for the World (which includes a breakdown on how members  voted) describes how the cuts approved by the House Agriculture Committee could create hardships for families in our country.  If enacted, the FARRM would:
  • Remove 2 million SNAP recipients from the program
  • Reduce SNAP benefits (by about $90 each month) for 850,000 households
  • End free school meals for 210,000 children.
  • Cut international food aid by $2.5 billion over 5 years—those cuts would include a 78 percent reduction in funding for improving the nutritional quality of food aid
Bread for the World joined several anti-hunger organizations and a handful of members of Congress in a press conference on Capitol Hill to oppose the deep cuts in SNAP.  All of the groups vowed to fight the cuts as the bill goes to the floor of the House. 

In addition to the direct impact on benefits, the bill would restrict states' flexibility in how they administer SNAP in coordination with other low-income support programs like heating assistance (LIHEAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Speaking Out
Here are some of the statements from various organizations regarding cuts in funding for SNAP.  Some of the statements were included in a joint press release from Bread for the World, United Way, Catholic Charities and Feeding America. Others came just before or just after the House Agriculture Committee mark-up.

Bread for the World
“These cuts are worse than what was proposed in 2012,” said Bread for the World President Beckmann. “Lawmakers must look for other measures for balancing our federal budget than to do so on the backs of hungry and poor people who did not create the deficit in the first place.”

“If the House farm bill becomes law with these drastic cuts, millions will lose food assistance at a time when American families are struggling with long-term unemployment or reduced wages," said Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World's director of government relations.  Now is not the time for Congress to turn its back on hungry people.” 

Catholic Charities USA
"SNAP meets critical needs for low-income working families, seniors, children, and individuals struggling to get by," said Father Larry Snyder , President of Catholic Charities USA. "We as a society have a special obligation to consider first the needs of the poor, even as we act through government. The proposed cuts to this vital program put a disproportionate burden on the very people our Catholic tradition teaches us to elevate in our public consciousness."

Feeding America
If divided evenly across Feeding America's national network of food banks, every food bank would have to provide an additional 4 million meals each year for the next ten years, and that is just not possible," said Bob Aiken , president and CEO of Feeding America. "There is no way that charity would be able to make up the difference. We are already stretched thin meeting sustained high need, and we simply do not have the resources to prevent hunger in all of the families who would be impacted by these cuts."

This is what the organization said shortly after the Senate Agriculture Committee approved its version of the farm bill. “Given the state of the economy and the fact that so many people are struggling to find work or are working for fewer hours or lower wages, now is the time to protect and strengthen Federal hunger-relief programs, and not to cut these essential benefits upon which so many vulnerable families rely." Read full statement

United Way
"Strong communities require public-private partnership," said Steve Taylor , Senior Vice President and Counsel for Policy at United Way Worldwide. "Every day local charities see this partnership reflected in the generous support of volunteers and donors, and this value is reflected in Washington through important programs like SNAP. We're all in this together. SNAP and the families it serves must be protected from cuts." 

Mazon, A Jewish Response to Hunger
"Rather than embracing the bi-partisan, balanced approach used for decades by their predecessors, , in which they rejected increases in hunger or poverty in the name of deficit reduction, leaders in this Congress have mired the Farm Bill in misguided attempts to realize budget savings that would do real harm to vulnerable people across the country."

Share Our Strength
In a post on the SOS blog after the Senate Agriculture Committee vote, online organizer Sam Reed said:  "As the economy slowly recovers, federal nutrition programs like SNAP and SNAP Ed make sure families don't have to choose between putting food on the table and paying their rent. Cutting off vital resources from those who need it is not an acceptable response to our nation’s fiscal challenges. These cuts will mean more kids facing hunger in America, which can lead to an increase in health care costs, declining test scores, and lower graduation rates."

Food Research and Action Center
The organization noted that the House and Senate were going ahead with cuts to SNAP despite a poll showing broad opposition by the U.S. public. The organization alluded to a  poll of 850 registered votersconducted online from April 29 to May 1, 2013, by Hart Research Associates, which showed that s even in 10 voters indicated that cutting food stamp funding is the wrong way to reduce government spending. 

Network: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
In their attempts to reduce the deficit, House and Senate members need to focus on areas of the farm bill that can be further cut without increasing hunger and endangering the wellbeing of our children – our hope for a healthy future, Network said in a news release.
Agriculture Committee
So what is the House Agriculture Committee saying about its vote?  The cuts in food stamps benefits are described as " the first reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) since the Welfare Reform Act of 1996, saving more than $20 billion."

"I am proud of the Committee's effort to advance a farm bill with significant savings and reforms. We achieve nearly $40 billion in savings by eliminating outdated government programs and reforming others. No other committee in Congress is voluntarily cutting money, in a bipartisan way, from its jurisdiction to reduce the size and scope of the federal government. I appreciate the efforts of my colleagues and the bipartisan nature in which this legislation was written and approved. I look forward to debating the bill on the House floor this summer," said Rep. Frank Lucas, committee chair.

Here is the full  House Agriculture Committee Press Release, which provides details of cuts and consolidations in other programs under the jurisdiction of the committee.

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