CHN: Farm Bill – with Harmful SNAP Provisions – Clears House Committee
A Farm Bill, which includes the legislation authorizing SNAP/food stamps, passed (26-20) out of the House Agriculture Committee on April 18. Despite historically being a bipartisan bill, this version of the Farm Bill passed along party lines. Democrats on the committee were united in their opposition to deep cuts and harmful changes to SNAP included in the bill.
Advocates also strongly oppose the proposed changes to SNAP, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates would cause more than 1 million low-income households with more than 2 million people — particularly low-income working families with children — to lose their benefits altogether or have them reduced. In particular, the plan includes sweeping, aggressive new work requirements that would require adults ages 18 to 59 who aren’t raising a child under 6 and aren’t determined to be seriously disabled to prove monthly that they are working or participating in job-training programs for at least 20 hours a week to receive SNAP benefits. If a participant did not meet all of the work requirements, he or she would lose SNAP benefits for 12 months unless a job is secured that meets the requirements. A second infraction would mean the person would be ineligible for SNAP for 36 months unless a job that meets the requirements is secured. The bill also restricts states’ abilities to waive the work requirements, including for areas with high unemployment, and eliminates or rolls back states’ flexibility in determining who can access SNAP. This change would re-impose a benefit cliff, cutting families off of SNAP when they earn slightly more than the federal eligibility cutoff of 130 percent of the federal poverty level; create more paperwork and bureaucracy for beneficiaries and states; and result in roughly 265,000 children in low-income families losing access to free meals at school. In all, the bill cuts SNAP benefits by more than $17 billion, net. (That is, there are $23.1 billion in SNAP benefit cuts, offset by $5.8 billion in other benefit improvements, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)
Advocates are also quick to point out that most people who get SNAP and can work do work, and that there is already a strict three-month time limit in place for able-bodied adults ages 18-50 without children who aren’t working 20 hours a week. However, this bill will cause many of these workers who work in low-wage jobs with unstable hours to lose SNAP benefits. It will also hurt people with health conditions, parents with children over six, caregivers, and the children of the parents affected. For more information, see these statements from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America, and pieces from the CBPP on how the new requirements would hurt workers without providing nearly enough funding for employment assistance. CHN is cosponsoring a webinar on the House farm bill with CBPP, Feeding America, and FRAC on Tuesday, April 24 at 3:30pm ET.
The House bill could be voted on by the entire House in May. According to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), a bipartisan Farm Bill from Senate Agriculture Committee Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) could be marked up before the Memorial Day recess, though this version has not yet been released.