CHN: House Committees Highlight the Importance of Public Benefits

Multiple House committees have recently held several hearings highlighting the importance of public benefits in meeting the needs of low-income people and investigating the impact of cuts to these programs. On June 19, the House Budget Committee held a hearing titled, “Poverty in America: Economic Realities of Struggling Families.” Witnesses included Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and others from the Poor People’s Campaign. Rev. Dr. Barber, in his testimony, made the case that it is economically irresponsible for Congress not to comprehensively address poverty. Several other witnesses shared their personal experience with living in poverty.

On June 20, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations held a hearing on a Trump Administration proposal to roll back states’ ability to tailor their SNAP/food stamps income and asset limits to help more low-income households. According to the Food Research & Action Center, the option, known as “broad-based categorical eligibility” allows states to screen families with gross incomes slightly above 130 percent of the poverty line to determine if their net incomes would make them eligible for SNAP benefits. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, categorical eligibility has been a success for 20 years, and more than 40 states have adopted it to make SNAP more responsive to the needs of low-income families. While Congress has repeatedly rejected proposals to roll back the option, the Trump Administration has said it will try to implement the change through executive action.