Willing to Deny Food to 4 Million More Poor People: Rumors of House Plans to Double SNAP Cuts

Willing to Deny Food to 4 Million More Poor People:Rumors of House Plans to Double SNAP Cuts

The House was unable to pass a farm bill with a nutrition title because the $20 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) approved by the House Agriculture Committee was not deep enough for some of the most right-wing members.  That proposal would have eliminated SNAP for 2 million very low-income people.  Instead, the House passed a very partisan farm bill with the nutrition provisions left out.  (For details, see the July 22 Human Needs Report.)  Now, the House leadership is reported to have crafted a new stand-alone bill including massive SNAP cuts – doubling the cuts to $40 billion, with 4 million more people losing SNAP and millions more seeing their benefits reduced.  The new bill may make it to the House floor in September.

The bill would retain all the harsh SNAP cuts in the original bill plus those that passed on the House floor before the nutrition title was axed from the farm bill.  One successful amendment would provide an incentive for states to drop unemployed people from SNAP even if they are actively looking for work but cannot find a job.  After cutting off the jobless person, the state would receive federal dollars.  The new bill according to reports would make millions more unemployed people without children eligible for SNAP for only three months out of every three years.  For the rest of the time, they cannot receive benefits unless they are working at least half-time.  Under current law, those harsh limits can be waived if the locality has a high unemployment rate.  The new legislation would end this waiver provision, now utilized in at least 45 states.  No matter how high the local unemployment rate is, 18-50 year olds not raising children would be denied SNAP benefits for 33 out of 36 months.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4 million people could be affected, among them at least 1.6 million women.  The average income of these childless people is 22 percent of the federal poverty line (that is, only a little over $2,500 a year in income).

The farm subsidy provisions that passed the House increased benefits for certain farmers, including a $9 billion increase in crop insurance subsidies over 10 years.  Farm subsidies overwhelmingly are received by large corporate farms.  Three-quarters of the $23 billion in farm subsidies went to the largest 15-20 percent of farms.  One beneficiary of farm subsidies is Representative Stephen Fincher (R-TN), who attracted attention by defending the original SNAP cuts in the farm bill in a Memphis speech, saying:  “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country.”  In 2012 alone, Rep. Fincher received $70,000 in farm subsidies; between 1999 and 2012, he accumulated $3.48 million in subsidies, according to the Environmental Working Group.  It is not known whether Rep. Fincher would support the doubling of SNAP cuts, targeted to the poorest of the poor.

(For more details about the proposed new SNAP cuts, see the Statement by Robert Greenstein, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

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