Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are misguided and hurt our nation’s most vulnerable. The U.S. House should discard the idea contained in its version of the farm bill.
By most measures, the U.S. government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is already a resounding success.
Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP has one of the lowest fraud rates among all federal programs, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Yet Republican leaders in the U.S. House are pushing for stark changes to the program that would cause at least 1.2 million people — possibly as many as 2 million — to lose their monthly benefits. The House farm bill that contains the proposed SNAP cuts could come up for another vote this week.
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This attempt to cut about $19 billion in food-assistance benefits over the next 10 years would only hurt our nation’s most vulnerable. Meanwhile, the savings are meager compared to the cost of the recent GOP tax-cut package, which is projected to add $1.4 trillion over a decade to the federal deficit while delivering most of its benefits to corporations and the wealthy.
While the tax cuts likely won’t pay for themselves, government researchers have estimated that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9 in economic activity. About one in eight people nationwide participate in SNAP, including in Washington state.
The House farm bill would impose stricter work requirements on SNAP recipients, something that doesn’t sound unreasonable on its face. But existing rules already require most single, able-bodied adults without children to work or be enrolled in a workforce training program for 20 hours per week to receive SNAP assistance.
The House bill would extend those requirements to older adults between the ages of 50 and 59, as well as adults with children ages 6 and older.
Most SNAP families with kids already have at least one person working. These changes would mean that, if they can’t prove they worked 80 hours that month — something that could be hard for parents with fluctuating hours, or who are balancing child-care needs — they could lose their benefits for a year. Another slip up, and they could be cut off for three years.
An earlier analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimated nearly two-thirds of the people who would lose benefits under the House plan would be people living with children.
The bill also would remove states’ ability to help additional families access SNAP benefits, while underfunding a rushed expansion of training programs.
The House should consign this proposal to the trash heap, and take a lesson from the Senate, which has been collaboratively working on its own version of the farm bill.
That proposal, unlike the House’s plan, doesn’t try to send a partisan message by taking swipes at our nation’s most needy.