This week, the Senate will debate and vote on a Farm Bill that will cut $4.1 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps.) Here in Washington, that cut would amount to the loss of $90 in monthly SNAP benefits for at least 232,000 homes.
During the floor debate, amendments will be offered, including ones that will attempt to cut SNAP even deeper. One good amendment that we can expect will come from Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) who will introduce an amendment, co-sponsored by Washington’s Sen. Patty Murray, which would restore the benefits that are otherwise cut from the program.
More conservative members of Congress believe that we must cut SNAP in order to make a concerted effort to decrease our nation’s deficit, but that belief is contrary to what most non-partisan economic analysts have found. For instance the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that the dramatic rise in spending on SNAP is tied to the dramatic rise in poverty due to our nation’s recession and high unemployment rate. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has predicted that as our nation’s economic prosperity grows, the use of SNAP benefits will drop off. In other words, SNAP works exactly as it was intended to do: to grow in times of economic need and shrink as our economy improves. It acts as an economic stimulus, giving families the ability to continue adding money to our economy by purchasing the food they need to stay healthy and ready to find and continue work until they can be self-sufficient again.
In fact, our deficit is shrinking. The CBO estimates that our federal deficit will drop by as much as $642 billion this year and will continue to fall, such that by 2015, our deficit will be economically sustainable. Yet the House of Representatives will debate and vote on a Farm Bill next month that seeks to cut $20.5 billion from SNAP. That cut would add to the damage done by the Senate proposal by eliminating benefits altogether for 80,000 households in Washington, most of which are working poor families with children and seniors on fixed incomes. Nationally, 280,000 children would lose their eligibility for the free school lunch program. Cutting SNAP is not only unnecessary to reduce our deficit which is already shrinking, it is unconscionable, hurting families by denying them help to meet their most basic of needs and setting our nation back at a time when it is starting to make great strives in recovering.
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