A 20 Billion Dollar Cut to SNAP Will Increase Hunger Now
House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas released his first draft of the farm bill into committee on Friday. His draft would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $20 billion over 10 years. In this weakened economy, need has increased and participation is high, because the safety net has responded as it should, but Rep. Lucas (R-Okla.) would change that with this bill.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a member of the agriculture committee, said the bill “would make hunger worse and not better.” Last week the congressman gave his tenth End Hunger Now floor speech in advance of the chairman’s draft proposal.
Both the House and Senate will mark up the farm bill this week in their respective committees; the Senate on Tuesday, May 14, and the House on Wednesday, May 15. After the chair offers the first draft, committee members have the opportunity to propose and vote on any amendments, or changes, to the bill. Once a final version is voted out of committee, leadership then adds it to the schedule for a floor vote. Both House and Senate leadership have indicated they would like a farm bill on the summer agenda.
“We are supposed to help people, not hurt people,” said McGovern in his speech.” But if this farm bill goes forward with a $20 billion cut in SNAP, we will be hurting people— millions and millions of people in this country.”
Any cuts to SNAP would prove devastating for vulnerable Americans. SNAP participants are already facing a reduction in benefits—on Nov. 1, a temporary program boost that was included in the 2009 stimulus package will expire. Even more alarming: a recent Institute of Medicine study concluded that the way in which the benefit level is calculated for SNAP is inadequate for a healthy diet. Inadequate as existing levels are, just this expiration will reduce the average benefit to about $1.40 per person per meal, reports the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. Cutting the program by $20 billion over 10 years would reduce the benefit even further and increase food insecurity even more.
“Outraged” was a term McGovern used repeatedly in his speech. He responded to those who believe cuts would reduce participation. “SNAP isn’t a get-rich scheme,” he said. “People use SNAP to put food on their tables during difficult times. McGovern noted that many people who currently qualify for SNAP do work, but said “[t]he way to reduce the number of people on SNAP is by creating jobs—by helping to get this economy going again.”
In the Senate, the agriculture committee chairwoman’s farm bill draft included a $4.1 billion cut to the SNAP program, which would also create hardship for millions of families. We continue to ask Bread for the World members to call their senators and tell them to ask for a final version with no cuts.
Today, Bread for the World will launch a targeted action alert to our members who have representatives on the committee. During this short window of opportunity, we must get in as many calls as possible to the 44 members who sit on the House agriculture committee. As their constituents, we can demand a final draft that protects programs for hungry people. From Rep. Schrader in Oregon to Rep. Collins in New York, committee members across this nation must hear that any farm bill must help to end hunger now.
Photo: Alex Morris feeds her son, André, in their Bend, Ore., home. Alex depends on SNAP, WIC and other programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Brad Horn)
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