House Proposes Deep Cuts to SNAP in Farm Bill
By Helly Lee
Update: On July 12th, the House Agriculture Committee voted to pass the Farm Bill by a vote of 35-11. The committee debated over 100 amendments. Among SNAP amendments, the following were proposed and voted on:
- McGovern Amendment #21 to restore SNAP cuts: This amendment would have prevented the $16 billion in cuts proposed to SNAP in the House bill. The amendment was not passed.
- Schrader Amendment #88 to replace the House Nutrition Title: This amendment would have replaced the House nutrition title, with the one passed in the Senate that cuts $4.5 billion from SNAP. The amendment was not passed.
- Huelskamp Amendment #40: This amendment would have increased the cuts to SNAP from $16 billion to $33 billion and included cuts similar to what was passed in the House Budget Reconciliation Bill earlier this summer. This amendment was not passed.
The bill next goes to the full House for consideration. There are a limited number of legislative days left to pass the Farm bill and both the House and Senate must work out differences in the bills each chamber passes before the Farm bill expires on Sept. 30th. CLASP strongly urges Congress to protect SNAP as the bills advance, and we will continue to provide updates as the process moves forward.
Last Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee released a 557-page draft of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012, also known as the Farm Bill. The House bill proposes $16 billion in cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more than triple the the $4.5 billion cut to SNAP proposed in the Senate-passed version of the Farm Bill. These House cuts would affect 2 to 3 million Americans, already struggling from the slowly recovering economy. In addition, nearly 280,000 school children from low income families will lose eligibility for free school meals when their families lose SNAP benefits.
The largest cut to SNAP comes from eliminating state’s option to streamline eligibility and allow states to deem eligibility for SNAP based on participation in another means tested program. Most of the people who participate in other means tested programs would still be eligible for SNAP under the standard rules — but would have to provide more documentation and jump more bureaucratic hurdles to prove their eligibility, therefore increasing the cost to administer the programs in states. In addition to reducing red tape and costs, states use this streamlined eligibility to update the absurdly low gross income and asset limits. Under current federal law, assets of just $2,000 disqualify families from receiving SNAP benefits. Because over 40 states have opted to adopt categorical eligibility, more families in need are able to access benefits.
News reports suggest that in the negotiations leading up to this current draft, Agriculture Committee Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson proposed to increase the asset limit to $5,000 and modestly raise the gross income test to 140 percent of the federal poverty level (currently set at 130 percent) to partially offset the elimination of streamlined eligibility. As Politico noted, this would establish a national eligibility standard less generous than Texas, a state not known for its strong safety net. However, Lucas faced opposition to this from his Republican colleagues, who pushed for eliminating streamlined eligibility without any compromise, which is what the draft committee bill includes.
There have been a number of recent efforts to cut vital safety net programs. Earlier this year, the House Agriculture Committee made an effort to dig even deeper by cutting $36 billion out of SNAP in H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act. The bill passed the House, but it has not been taken up by the Senate.
On Wednesday, the Farm Bill is expected to be marked up in committee, where committee members will debate and amend the legislation before passing it onto the full House for consideration. If the farm bill is passed by the Agriculture Committee and by the complete House, the next step will be a conference committee to negotiate a compromise with the Senate passed version. CLASP is deeply concerned about the impact cuts to SNAP will have on struggling families across the nation. It is essential that members of Congress hear a strong message about the importance of SNAP benefits and the many families, children and elderly who rely on the program to have enough to eat. Preserving categorical eligibility is essential to give states the flexibility cut through red tape that prevents needy individuals and families from receiving benefits.
For more information on the cuts to SNAP contained in the House Farm Bill, see the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’s analysis including a state-by-state impact table. You can find out how to get involved ahead of the mark-up and as the process continues with Feeding America’s Hunger Action Center.