Not a SNAP: Farm Bill Cuts Hurt Women, Children
The Senate passed the farm bill S. 954 June 10 in a vote of 66-27, approving roughly $4 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program.
SNAP is incorporated into the farm bill under the nutrition share of the bill and composes nearly 80 percent of all expenditures in the farm bill. The House version of the bill, H.R. 1947, proposes $20 billion in cuts to SNAP, deepening partisan divisions over whether this cut is too large or not steep enough.
The arguments weigh concerns about reducing the deficit and the national debt versus providing for people who rely on the program for access to food. SNAP provides more than 46 million women, children, seniors and others in need with access to money for the purchase of food. With the overwhelming reality that 1 in 6 Americans is faced with hunger every day, cutting SNAP benefits is a sensitive issue.
Those leery of the price tag associated with SNAP have suggested that the program must be reformed to make it more affordable. Some argue that the program is open to large-scale error and fraud, creates dependency on the government and is ineffective at reducing hunger.
These concerns misinterpret the role of SNAP and its effectiveness in directly feeding poor people, women and children living in the United States.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has found that SNAP payment error rates are the lowest they have ever been, ensuring that only households in need of benefits are receiving them. CBPP further states that the growth in SNAP spending is temporary, and is expected to diminish as the economy recovers and unemployment wanes. The program was designed as a safety net to provide for people during difficult times until they are able to emerge from poverty.
SNAP Cuts Have Huge Negative Impact
If the House’s proposed cuts are approved, the impact on low-income individuals would be considerable, and children would be at the center of this concern. According to Children’s Health Watch, children in families whose SNAP benefits have been decreased or terminated are 90 percent more likely to face limited or uncertain availability of food, and are significantly more likely to experience poor health. The organization also claims, “Physicians and medical researchers think SNAP is one of America’s best medicines to prevent and treat … child food insecurity.”
The farm bill goes further to protect children by permitting legal child immigrants, as well as those who are disabled or have legally resided in the United States for at least five years, to apply for SNAP. This provision of the bill is especially important to women and children, as they account for nearly three-fourths of all immigrants who enter the United States. Allowing them access to food benefits promotes better health and wellness, and encourages more productivity for the nation as a whole.
According to Eva M. Clayton, the drastic cuts to SNAP proposed by the House “will eliminate food assistance to nearly two million low-income people that includes children, seniors, and the working poor. This is a direct attack on poor and low income working families.”
Senate and House Farm Bills
Both the Senate and the House are in agreement that SNAP benefits may be adjusted for those who also receive benefits from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The Senate and the House differ with regard to categorical eligibility—adjustable criteria based on income level and cash assets that determine whether a household is eligible for SNAP benefits.
The House’s proposed cuts to SNAP would remove categorical eligibility, thus limiting a state’s ability to provide essential assistance to struggling families and individuals who fall outside qualifying limits.
State-run organizations have expressed concerns about the House’s plan to eliminate categorical eligibility. Should the proposed reductions to the farm bill pass in both the House and the Senate, state cuts are likely to be seen across the nation, harming more women and children in poverty. You must act now!
- Urge your members of Congress to abandon efforts to cut SNAP.
- Contact the office of your state legislature to find out how people in your community will be impacted by cuts to SNAP.
- Appeal to your state representatives to work with your congressional delegation to prevent cuts to the SNAP program.
- “Cuts to Food Stamps Are Key in Farm Bill Debate.”
- “In Rural Tennessee, a New Way to Help Hungry Children: A Bus Turned Bread Truck.”
- Resolution 3202, “Health and Wholeness” (pages 328-338), in The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church (2012)
- Follow @fractweets for the latest updates on the farm bill and include #SNAPWorks, #SNAPChallenge and #endhungernow in your tweets.