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House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas’ (R-Okla.) introduction of legislation this week in the House of Representatives to slash about $39 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) has unsurprisingly drawn the disapproval of various hunger relief organizations. According to the groups, the proposed measure would throw several million low-income Americans off the program and also cause more than 200,000 children to lose access to free and reduced-price school meals. The legislation comes on top of an across-the-board cut for every family on SNAP taking effect on Nov 1.
In response to the bill’s introduction, Bread for the World, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Feeding America, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and Share Our Strength (SOS) said: “We are deeply concerned about the magnitude and impact these cuts would have for our most vulnerable citizens. As national organizations working to help those struggling with hunger, we know that this proposed legislation will lead to literally billions of lost meals in the coming years for poor families and more hunger and hardship.”
Pointing to “a number of extremely troubling provisions” in the proposed legislation, the organizations pointed out that “rather than help unemployed workers who have been hit hardest by the recent economic downturn, this bill would penalize many of those who can’t find jobs by throwing them off SNAP. It would end the ability of governors to waive SNAP’s harsh three-month time limit for unemployed childless adults, regardless of high unemployment and future economic downturns. It would also give states an unprecedented incentive to kick people off the program by denying benefits to large numbers of low-income people who want to work but cannot find a job and allowing states to keep half the savings to use however they want — whether on tax breaks or to plug budget holes.”
As a result, the groups argued, “This legislation will increase hunger in America,” especially among those most at risk, since 92 percent of people on SNAP are children, elderly, disabled or already working. “Already stretched charitable organizations, including churches and food banks, cannot fill such a gap,” the organizations noted.
In answer to the program’s critics, the groups cited recent data from the Census Bureau finding that SNAP raised 4 million people above the official poverty line in 2012, thereby aiding the economy, and noted that “cutting SNAP will hurt educational attainment, increase health care costs and threaten jobs across the country.”
The organizations urged Congress to oppose the legislation and “adhere to Washington's long- standing bipartisan commitment to protect SNAP.”
Additionally, celebrity chef and anti-hunger activist Tom Colicchio joined forces with House Democrats, including Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), at a press conference to condemn the proposed cuts to the program.