Friday, September 20, 2013

House Strips $40 billion from Food Stamp Program. Now What?

Photo: Bread for the World
The House of Representatives, in a highly partisan vote, moved to cut more than $39 billion in benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next 10 years. The vote was a fairly narrow, with Rep. Steve Pearce among the 217 yes votes, all Republicans. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan were among the Democrats who voted No, along with 15 Republicans. There were six legislators who did not vote. Here is the Roll Call to HR3102 from the House Clerk.

The cuts represent the loss of about 1.5 billion meals in Fiscal 2014 alone, according to Feeding America. 

“The legislation will cause at least four million individuals to lose their SNAP benefits entirely, 850,000 households will lose an average $90 per month in SNAP benefits, and 210,000 children will lose free school meals. These cuts to SNAP combined with the scheduled American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) cuts to the program—scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1, 2013—will result in the loss of about 3.4 billion meals provided to low-income Americans in 2014. That is more meals that the entire Feeding America Network of 200 food banks distributed through 61,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in 2013." 

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities also warned about the devastating impact of the cuts on many working families.  

By cutting food assistance for at least 3.8 million low-income people in the coming year — including some of the very poorest Americans, many children and senior citizens, and even veterans — this cruel, if not heartless, legislation could jeopardize a vital stepping stone to many families who are still struggling to find work or who depend on low-wage jobs.  As the nation slowly climbs out of the deepest recession in decades — with 22 million people still unemployed or underemployed — millions of families rely on SNAP to help feed their children.'''

Earlier this week,  leaders from the Circle of Protection, a coalition of more than 65 heads of denominations and religious agencies, plus more than 5,000 church pastors, wrote letters to Congress urging a "no" vote on HR3012.  

"These proposed cuts are a clear indication that some in Congress underestimate the hunger that is present in millions of American homes," Bread for the World President David Beckmann wrote in a letter to Congress. "The amendment picks on the poorest people in the country. This is morally and economically unacceptable especially as some areas continue to experience high unemployment. Congress needs to focus on creating more jobs and not cut programs that stave off hunger for millions of people.”

So now what? These cuts are not final and must be reconciled with the much-smaller reduction of $4 billion approved in the Senate version of the Farm Bill. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)  believes there might be a possibility to address the problem in the House-Senate Conference Committee on the Farm Bill.

"It is time for the House and Senate conferees and the Administration to work for and produce a Farm Bill that makes sense for struggling Americans. It is time to stop playing politics with poverty, and to start helping low-income people. They must produce a good Farm Bill that does not cut SNAP and that places us on the path to ending hunger in this country."

Stay Tuned for Advocacy Opportunities 

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