Last Friday, 47 million Americans saw their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits cut when a temporary benefit boost included in the 2009 Recovery Act expired without a new budget from a dysfunctional Congress. The Recovery Act provided short-term, modest benefits to families across the country struggling with a bleak economic outlook during the recession.
The $5 billion across the board cut went into effect November 1 and will impact the food security of nearly 22 million children, or one in four kids across the country, nine million seniors and people with disabilities, and almost one million veterans – the exact people the program was designed to protect. In Virginia, close to one million will see their benefits dramatically reduced by a $99 million statewide cut, affecting almost half a million children and more than 170,000 people with disabilities.
These numbers are staggering, but were predetermined as SNAP levels settled to pre-stimulus levels. For House Republicans though, 47 million Americans questioning where their next meal will come from doesn’t seem to be enough. Knowing about these looming rolled back spending levels, they passed a Farm Bill this fall that would make matters significantly worse for millions of Americans.
Already struggling to live on less than $3 a day per family member, millions of children, seniors, and veterans are now making do on just $1.40 per meal. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates that 900,000 veterans nationwide live in SNAP reliant households facing undermined food security, over 35,000 of them in Virginia alone. CBPP estimates that a family of three faces living with $29 less in its food budget per month, translating into roughly 16 meals.
The House Republican Farm Bill cuts an additional $39 billion over the next decade, nearly $4 billion annually, from the program, and ends government waivers for unemployed, childless adults. The alternative passed in the Senate would only cut $4 billion overall from the program. For House Republicans to support additional cuts in food assistance at a time when financial security eludes so many Americans is both mean-spirited and economically counterproductive.
Their proposal 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. Again, these are the exact people SNAP is designed to protect.
I am confident that this legislation will be improved in conference. It is disheartening to find House Republicans wasting valuable time on efforts that reduce food availability for the hungry instead of addressing urgent issues facing our nation.