Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by a morally outrageous amount of $40 billion over the next ten years.
These cuts are cruel and seneseless, defying compassion for the most vulnerable among us as these cuts will devastate seniors on fixed incomes, poor families with children, veterans, active military, and people with disabilities-- the people who need SNAP. They defy reality, history, the desires and needs of constituents, and even the supposed reasons offered by those who voted for this bill.
Reality: Recently released data from the USDA and from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) show persistently high rates of food insecurity and food hardship (inability to afford food) in our country despite an economy that is slowly on the mend. According to the USDA, 1 in 6 Americans struggles with food insecurity; according to FRAC, 1 in 4 households with children have not been able to afford food at times during the last 12 months.
History: Solutions to hunger should not be a partisan issue. In fact, our food stamp program was founded and protected over the years with leadership from both Republican and Democratic members, as this excellent op-ed from former Senators Tom Daschle and Bob Dole details.
Desires and Needs of Constituents: A recent poll conducted by Hart Research finds that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that the SNAP program is very or fairly important and that 7 out of 10 registered voters believe that cutting SNAP is the wrong way to reduce government spending. This is especially outrageous when many of those who voted to cut SNAP come from the hardest hit regions for food hardship-- the American Southeast and Southwest.
SNAP Works: Those who voted for this bill say that it was necessary to cut wasteful spending and get people to work. The non-partsian Congressional Budget Office has shown that SNAP has been working exactly as designed: to expand in times of high need due to high unemployment and will shrink again as our job market and economy improves, such that SNAP rolls would drop dramatically by 2017 if left alone. This bill finds most of its supposed savings by taking away a state waiver that allows states to continue to give SNAP benefits to single adults without dependents when state unemployment rates are higher than the national average on the presumption that these are people who are purposefully not working when in reality, 80% of all SNAP recipients have worked or do work within 1 year of getting on the program. The rest of the cuts in this bill could mean the loss of millions of dollars in federal aid to Washington state's education and training programs for individuals on SNAP while at the same time requiring more individuals on SNAP to work in order to receive benefits when they would work if they could find a job.
The House voted for these cuts even though SNAP spending will already be cut on November 1 when all SNAP households will see a fall in their benefits due to the end of a temporary boost that was part of the economic stimulus package of 2009. In other words, our hungry Americans are already being asked to make a sacrifice in the name of finding savings on government spending. When will the House ask the rest of us to make this kind of sacrifice because they have yet to do that so far?
Our most heartfelt thanks go to Washington Representatives DelBene, Larsen, Kilmer, McDermott, Smith and Heck for their valiant efforts to defeat this terrible bill. We are deeply disappointed and hope you will join us in expressing that disappointment in Reps. Hastings, Reichert, and McMorris Rodgers who turned their backs on the 1.1 million Washingtonians who need SNAP.
Where do we go from here? This is by no means the end of the fight. We are not and shall not be defeated. The Senate and the House will likely name members to a conference committee to try to achieve consensus on a five year Farm Bill. They will have to bridge the gap between a Senate proposal to cut SNAP by $4.1 billion, 1/10th of the proposed cut in the Senate but still means that the starting point for negotiations will be a cut that will affect 232,000 households in Washington, causing them to lose $90 each month in food assistance. We need you to join us in speaking out now that the only good Farm Bill that will actually help us achieve a healthy, sustainable food system for all Americans is one that does not cut SNAP.