by Jim Nintzel
OK, so they're not food stamps anymore—it's the SNAP program. Whatever you want to call it, congressional Republicans yesterday cut the program by $40 billion over the next decade.
The upshot is that food stamps are a meager subsidy, of less than $1.40 per meal, for people either stuck in very low paid jobs or unable to find work at all. Their cost has increased because the recession has increased the supply of poor, desperate people. Republicans have offered specious comparisons to welfare reform, but that law both offered funds for job training and was passed in a full-employment economy. Neither of these conditions holds true of the GOP’s food-stamp cuts, whose only significant result would be the first-order effect of making very poor people hungrier.
Congressman Raul Grijalva blasted the cuts in a press release:
Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) and CPC Whip Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) voted against the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013, H.R. 3102, a Republican bill to drastically cut nutrition programs.
H.R. 3102 cuts the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by nearly $40 billion over 10 years. The bill, which passed on a 217-210 vote, leaves 3.8 million Americans without food assistance and allows states to cut off an entire family’s food aid if parents can’t find a job or find space in a job-training program.
“Some of my Republican colleagues want to cut food assistance for needy families instead of closing business tax loopholes as a way to save money,” said Rep. Grijalva. “There's a basic question of fairness and who our country looks out for here. If you think more corporate tax cuts are the answer, go ahead and say so, but don't take food out of children's mouths while you're doing it.”
“Food assistance for working families fulfills a promise we make to each other: if you fall on hard times, your neighbors, friends and fellow Americans will help you get a meal,” Rep. Ellison said. “Eighteen companies dodged $92 billion in taxes last year, which is more than double the cut passed by Republicans today. Let’s cut corporate waste, not meals for our nation’s children.”
“The proposed $40 billion in cuts to our nation’s first line of defense against hunger, SNAP, are heartless, unbelievable, and immoral,” Rep. Barbara Lee said. “We cannot balance our budget on the backs of our country’s children, seniors, veterans, and disabled. As a former recipient of public assistance, I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for the vital lifeline that was extended to me by the American people. SNAP serves as a bridge over troubled waters, and at a time when we are still recovering from the Great Recession, we must protect our nation’s vulnerable, not push them aside.”
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program helps almost 50 million Americans — including 900,000 veterans — each month. For every dollar in SNAP assistance, economic activity increases by $1.73. Seventy-five percent of SNAP recipients receive benefits for less than 12 months.
Congressman Ron Barber was also critical in a press release:
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today opposed drastic cuts to SNAP — the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — cuts that would take critical nutrition assistance away from nearly 4 million hungry children, veterans, seniors and adults.
“In Southern Arizona, more than 1 in 4 children are living in families that struggle to put enough food on the table. We should not be trying to balance the budget by taking more food from their mouths,” Barber said today. “Arizona is the nation’s third-highest state for food insecurity. As families struggle to recover from the economic downturn, it is unconscionable for us to be making it more difficult for millions of Americans to eat.”
Barber today voted against legislation that over the next 10 years would cut nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Nonetheless, the bill passed the House 217-to-210. It now goes to the Senate which is not expected to consider it.
Barber has consistently urged his colleagues to follow the lead of the Senate and pass the comprehensive Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, commonly known as the Farm Bill.
In June, Barber voted to pass a bipartisan, comprehensive Farm Bill that would have extended national agricultural and nutrition programs for the next five years. But that compromise bill failed to pass the House.
In July, Barber voted against a Farm Bill that did not include the nutrition program. Today’s legislation containing a $39 billion cut to assistance programs — nearly 10 times larger than the Senate-passed cut — was the House leadership’s answer to that.
But Barber said he would not accept such draconian cuts to an essential program that provides an average of $133 in monthly aid to more than 47 million Americans. Recipients of SNAP currently receive $1.40 per meal.
“When I voted to support a comprehensive Farm Bill, I called on leadership in Congress to work together and bring a bipartisan Farm Bill to the floor that can pass the House and Senate and be signed into law for the betterment of the American people and southern Arizona,” Barber said. “This bill that will never be considered by the Senate creates further uncertainty for Arizona families and American farmers.”
The House legislation would result in about 1.5 billion lost meals for hungry Americans over the next decade.
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, which strongly opposed the bill, said 30 percent of Arizona children live in families that have trouble putting food on the table. And 1 in 5 Arizonans must make tradeoffs when it comes to paying for basic needs such as housing, medical care and food.
Also opposing the bill was the National Council on Aging, which said it could have “a devastating effect on senior hunger in America.” Nearly 4 million people over age 60 with an average annual income of under $10,000 receive assistance from the program.
Barber also noted that nearly 1 in 5 veterans receive SNAP benefits. An estimated 3 million veterans and their families don’t get enough to eat according to Feed Our Vets. Barber represents about 85,000 veterans in Southern Arizona.