August 22, 2013
Editor’s Note: We are sharing with our readers the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) new analysis of the forthcoming House food stamp bill, and then conclude with some of our own thoughts about how it fits into the broader farm bill debate.
New Analysis of the Proposed SNAP Bill
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, DC-based think tank dedicated to research and analysis on policies that impact low-income individuals and families, released a report this week examining the impacts of the House leadership’s proposed, but yet to-be-released, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) bill.
The House Republican leadership plan calls for cutting $40 billion from the SNAP program over the next ten years, which would deny four to six million low-income people access to the program according to the CBPP analysis. In addition to the cut itself, the plan reportedly will also include a state option to adopt stricter work requirements, with a financial incentive to the state for taking the option. The CBPP analysis points out that most SNAP recipients do work while receiving assistance, but also that the proposed cuts would eliminate assistance for at least two million unemployed, childless adults who live in areas of high unemployment.
SNAP currently limits benefits for unemployed adults without children to only three months out of every three years, but states have the ability to secure waivers for high unemployment areas. The proposed House bill would eliminate states’ ability to waive the SNAP limitations in cases of high-unemployment, both immediately and in the case of future recessions.
The proposal includes the amendment introduced by Rep. Southerland (R-FL) in the previous House farm bill debate that would authorize states to eliminate assistance for entire families if the parents do not participate in a work or training program or are not working for at least twenty hours per week. This provision would incentivize states to eliminate SNAP benefits by allowing the states to keep half of the federal savings from cutting people off SNAP and use the funds for any purpose. The Southerland amendment was one of several causes for the stunning House defeat of a new comprehensive farm bill.
The reports highlights other demographics that would be impacted by the drastic cuts to SNAP, including 170,000 low-income veterans who would be impacted by the Southerland provision and 210,000 children who would lose access to free school meals.
Other provisions that the House bill proposal includes:
CBPP concludes: “The impact of these cuts on communities, as well as individuals, would be significant and felt throughout the country. The increased demand on already-strained local services and charities would be substantial – either displacing support for other needy residents, such as low-income working families, or leaving those cut off without sufficient food.”
The complete CBPP report is available here.
A Broader Context
As the congressional summer recess continues through the first week of September, there has not been much news to share on the farm bill front since our last farm bill blog. All forward progress on the bill has been stopped while the House GOP leadership decides what it is going to do on the promised food stamp bill and vote in September. Whether that bill and vote turn out to be the last hurdle to finally get to a House-Senate conference committee that might produce a new farm bill that can then clear both houses, or whether it turns out to be the nail in the coffin of a new farm bill, still very much remains to be seen. We continue to push for a new five-year bill with major reforms, and thus are very concerned about the House GOP food stamp proposal not only substantively but also for what it may mean for the farm bill as a whole.
With that context in mind, we wanted to share with our readers this important new analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) on what the proposed food stamp cuts would mean substantively. The idea of the House potentially voting in a few weeks on a measure that would cut four to six million Americans out of the food stamp program is all the more shocking in light of the House passing the so-called farm-only farm bill back in July that increases crop insurance subsidies by $10 billion, with no per farm subsidy limits, no rules limiting the subsidies to actual working farmers, no means testing to force millionaires to pay more of their own insurance costs, and no conservation requirements for basic care for the land in return for American taxpayers paying for the majority of farmers’ insurance costs.
The contrast could hardly be more stark, or more appalling. There needs to be a strong food safety net and a strong farm safety net. Work needs to be done on both fronts, but the greatest immediate need for reform lies on the farm side. Sadly, that need was left unaddressed in the House-passed farm-only farm bill. Now the new proposed food stamp-only bill coming to the House floor in September would not only do major damage to the food safety net, but could easily jeopardize getting any new farm bill completed this year. It is not, however, to late to move back from that brink. We hope Congress returns from recess with a new resolve to get a full and fair farm bill completed this year.