Last June, House Republicans brought to a vote legislation authorizing various federal agriculture, land conservation, and nutrition programs, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill. Included in this legislation was nearly $20 billion in cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that would have ended food assistance to nearly 3 million low income people. The bill also would have ended free school meals to 280,000 children in low income families whose eligibility is tied to their receipt of SNAP benefits.
This legislative proposal eventually fell apart on the House floor, losing Democratic support because of these steep, unnecessary cuts to nutrition programs. Tea Party Republicans, on the other hand, felt the cuts didn’t go far enough and withdrew their support as well.
Now, with just days to go before the end of the fiscal year, with a budget to negotiate and debt limit debate to resolve, Republican leaders have decided to move forward with another, worse bill that dramatically increases food insecurity for millions of Americans.
More than doubling the cuts proposed in June, to nearly $40 billion over ten years, this bill would negatively impact millions of lives across the country. Nearly two million families and unemployed parents with disposable incomes below the poverty line would see their food security diminished. Nutrition benefits would be terminated for millions of unemployed childless adults in areas of high unemployment, a group whose average income is about $2,500 per year.
School meals for 210,000 children would be eliminated and nutrition benefits for entire families would end if the parents can’t find a job, exactly the people SNAP is designed to protect.
These cuts proposed by House Republicans are in addition to the already looming across the board benefit reductions facing all SNAP recipients due to expiration of the American Recovery Act. As a result, nearly 800,000 Virginians who rely on SNAP benefits to help feed their families will face greater hardship. To propose significant additional cuts at a time when financial security eludes so many Americans is both mean-spirited and economically counterproductive.
While I am confident that this legislation, if passed by the House, would be blocked by the Senate and President Obama, it is disheartening to find House Republicans wasting valuable time on efforts to reduce food availability for the hungry instead of addressing urgent issues facing our nation.