Thursday, September 19, 2013

Conyers: $40 Billion Cut to Food Assistance Program Unconscionable

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 217 - 210 to pass H.R. 3102, the “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act.” This legislation would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $40 billion amongst other drastic changes. Following the House vote, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“For decades, House Republicans and Democrats have always worked together to pass a bipartisan farm bill that addressed the needs of farmers and ranchers as well as provided funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program.  However, after failure to pass the Farm Bill in June, House Republicans have taken an about-face and stripped the nutrition title from the farm bill with H.R. 3102, the so-called ‘Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act.’ They have instead introduced this separate nutrition bill that essentially takes all of the controversial amendments offered during the farm bill debate earlier this year, added an additional $20 billion cut to SNAP, which would amount to $40 billion in cuts over the next ten years.  The brunt of these immoral and unconscionable cuts would be borne by the most vulnerable - low-income families with children, senior citizens and disabled veterans,” said Conyers.

“Four to six million people will lose SNAP benefits if this bill were to become law. It would also cause hundreds of thousands of children to lose access to free school lunches.  Additionally, another 1.7 million people in 850,000 households would see their benefits reduced by an average of $90 month. Low-income Americans are already struggling to put food on their tables and will automatically face an across-the-board cut to their SNAP benefits come November 1st.  The expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to SNAP will result in a benefit cut for every SNAP household.

“The cut to SNAP outlined in this bill would include the following provisions: the elimination of categorical eligibility, an incentive for states to cut people off the SNAP program, and a state waiver that eliminates a Governors’ option to temporarily waive SNAP’s harsh three-month time limit for childless unemployed adults in areas with high unemployment.  As a result of the state waiver, unemployed, childless adults would be thrown off SNAP regardless of how high the unemployment rate is where they live and regardless of how hard they are trying to find work or job. It is unconscionable to think that Congress would support these provisions and pass such a devastating bill considering our slow economy.

“I implore my colleagues to consider the impact of this bill.  Nutrition funding is vitally important to the Farm Bill. It connects our food system with those who struggle with hunger in our own backyard.  If we fail to provide adequate funding for food assistance then we will have failed to protect the most vulnerable in America. But we cannot fail them and must do everything we can to help lift them from the grips of poverty.

“Over the last thirty years, every major deficit reduction packaged signed into law has always been negotiated according to the principle of not increasing poverty or inequality.  We must not turn from this tradition now.  Investing in hunger relief is a fiscally sound decision. It is a cost-effective and an investment in our nation’s future. 

“Therefore, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 3108, the ‘Extend Not Cut SNAP Benefits Act,’ a one-year extension of the 13% benefit increase through Fiscal Year 2014. SNAP benefits are the critical bridge during difficult economic times that helps to safeguard these families from facing hunger. Not only does SNAP help put food on the table for struggling families, it also helps stimulate economic growth. For every $1 increase in SNAP benefits, $1.70 in generated in economic activity. In 2011, SNAP lifted 4.7 million Americans above the poverty line, including 2.1 million children. Without SNAP, our economy would be worse off.”

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