SNAP Benefits Decline for Low-Income People; Cuts Highlight Importance of Nutrition Aid

Nov 01, 2013

By Elizabeth Lower-Basch and Lavanya Mohan

Starting today, 47 million people who receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including 22 million children and 9 million elderly and disabled people, will see a five percent cut in their monthly SNAP benefits. These cuts add up to an estimated $11 billion over three years. Moreover, households receiving SNAP could see even deeper cuts as a Congressional conference committee works to reconcile the House and Senate Farm bills.

On Wednesday, House and Senate members met for the committee’s first session. During opening statements, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) reminded Farm Bill conferees that, as a result of the cuts taking effect this week, “families will have 16 fewer meals per month…We must not make a bad situation even worse by piling on even deeper cuts.” Across the aisle, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) also drew attention to the importance of SNAP, explaining that “our nutrition assistance program plays a key role in ensuring that needy Americans have access to the food they need to lead healthy, productive lives.”

The House and Senate bills are far apart, but both contain cuts to SNAP. The Senate passed bill (S. 954) contains $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP over ten years. The House nutrition bill (passed last month as H.R. 2642) proposes approximately $40 billion in cuts to SNAP over ten years.  Moreover, the House bill includes harsh provisions that would deny SNAP benefits to unemployed workers even if they were willing to participate in employment search activities; reinstate antiquated asset limits; allow suspicionless drug testing of recipients; and further penalize ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society. Farm Bill conferees are now tasked with reconciling these very different proposals and passing legislation.  Because the legislation contains critical provisions on agriculture, there is great pressure for the House and Senate conferees to act before the end of December.

SNAP is an effective work supports program that helps unemployed and low-wage workers; boosts local economies and; significantly improves children’s long-term health, educational, and economic outcomes. Congress must pass a bill that does not weaken this critical safety net program.

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