Government relations corner
By Roberta Downing, PhD
Did you know that more than half (55 percent) of recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly “food stamps”) are living below half of the poverty line (about $9,500 for a family of three)? Can you imagine living at this income level and trying to feed a family? SNAP provides basic food assistance to the most vulnerable people. Nearly two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, seniors and individuals with disabilities. Yet SNAP has been under threat of massive cuts for the past several years. Congress should not be looking to this crucial safety net for deficit savings.
Why is this program being targeted? The main reason is because SNAP spending has increased significantly since the Great Recession. Families continue to struggle in a weak economy where unemployment remains high (at 7.3 percent). Fifteen percent of Americans (i.e., 46.5 million people) including 22 percent of American children, continued to live in poverty in 2012. In short, the need for help is great.
Food Insecurity Will Increase in the U.S.
SNAP benefits are already being cut. This month, every SNAP recipient across the nation experienced an across-the-board cut, as the boost in benefits that was part of the ARRA stimulus came to an end. Nearly 48 million people, including 22 million children, are feeling the effects which will result in $29 less in food assistance per month for a family of three. SNAP benefits are already very modest; the average recipient receives about $133.41 per month (or about $4.45 a day) to help to meet their families’ nutritional needs. And Congress will be cutting SNAP even more in the months to come as they aim to pass a farm bill.
SNAP Cuts in the Farm Bill
Every 5 years, Congress reauthorizes SNAP as part of the farm bill — legislation that addresses our nation’s agriculture programs. This year, the Senate voted on a bipartisan basis to cut SNAP by $4 billion in the farm bill. The House of Representatives passed a bill in September that would slash the SNAP program by $40 billion. A conference committee is working right now to negotiate an agreement between these two bills. It is clear that the cuts to SNAP will go higher than the $4 billion passed by the Senate. How high is not known; they will need to find a number that can pass both the Democratic-led Senate and the Republican-led House of Representatives.
We need to tell Congress to protect SNAP in their farm bill negotiations. Contact your senators and members of congress. Time is of the essence. Farm bill negotiations are taking place right now. Tell your elected officials not to look to SNAP for savings in the federal budget. Tell them: "Don’t increase food insecurity even more. Don’t let children, individuals with disabilities and the elderly suffer in the name of deficit reduction."