House Slashes Food Assistance

On Thursday, the House Republicans passed the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act (H.R. 3102) to cut approximately $39 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade.  If enacted, these cuts would eliminate food assistance to 3.8 million low-income Americans.

Republicans have branded these cuts as revised work requirements. But in reality, working Americans, Americans on waiting lists for job training programs, and Americans actively looking for work will be among those who lose access to the program. Additionally, there is no funding for job training or job programs in the bill, despite nominally addressing “work opportunity.”

For many workers in areas of high unemployment, the economy is still recovering. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that, for every job opening, there are three unemployed workers. These cuts will affect vulnerable populations who are actively trying to find jobs, working part-time jobs but unable to find full-time employment, or on waiting lists for job training, especially if the economic recovery remains anemic.

Roughly 30 percent of SNAP households earned income in 2010. Despite working, these households struggled to make ends meet and, as a result, met SNAP eligibility standards.

In the wake of the Great Recession, hardship is still widely felt. According to recent numbers, an estimated 14 percent of American households rely on food assistance. These households include senior citizens, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and children.

Approximately 85 percent of SNAP participants live below the poverty line, and the average household had a monthly income of just $731 per month for 2.2 household members, or about $10.72 per family member per day. According to the CBPP, the average 18- to 50-year old childless adult who will be dropped from the program has an income at a mere 22 percent of the poverty line.

The average household received $289.61 per month in SNAP assistance in 2010, or approximately $9.34 per day. This amount of assistance boosted income for receiving households by approximately 39 percent, bringing approximately 4 million individuals out of poverty.

For vulnerable families, this assistance could mean the difference between waking up in the middle of the night hungry and waking up in the morning ready to send the kids to school before completing another round of job applications. Children alone make up nearly half of the program’s participants, with veterans accounting for an additional 900,000 recipients (see chart below). This legislation will have severe impacts for these groups, as well. Estimates suggest cuts will eliminate 210,000 children from free school meals programs, and approximately 170,000 veterans will fail to meet the revised eligibility standards.

This latest round of suggested changes in work requirements comes despite continued evidence that the program effectively and efficiently addresses food insecurity. For households struggling to afford the essentials, these small amounts of assistance free up money to pay for other small expenditures– such as public transportation so beneficiaries can get to their jobs or help them find employment. In sum, SNAP assistance can help people go to work.

Food stamps help people help themselves. Not only is the House-passed SNAP bill harmful to the most vulnerable in our society, cutting it back will make it harder for those who already struggling.

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