UPDATE: House Proposes Deep Cuts to SNAP in Farm Bill

Jul 10, 2012

By Helly Lee

Update (12/21/12): On December 20th, the House passed H.R. 6684, the Spending Reduction Act, which cuts over $30 billion from SNAP. However, the Senate is not expected to take up the bill. It is unclear what Congress plans to do, if anything, between now and the end of the year to address the already-expired Farm Bill. Advocates continue to urge Congress and the President to protect SNAP from cuts, whether the issue is taken up in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations, a farm bill, or other legislative vehicles.

Update: As Congress heads into recess and members return to their home districts, the Farm Bill (H.R. 6083) will be left to expire on Sept. 30th.  While the Senate passed its version on June 21, the House leadership opted not to bring the committee-passed bill to the floor for debate and a vote on passage. Congress will be back for a “lame duck” session in November and December after the elections and may consider the Farm Bill among numerous other legislative priorities then. CLASP supports passage of a Farm Bill that does not include cuts to SNAP. The Senate passed bill included $4.5 billion in cuts to SNAP while the House bill includes an even deeper cut of $16 billion.

The expiration of the Farm Bill will not immediately affect the SNAP program as it will continue under current law with funding appropriated under the six month Continuing Resolution that Congress passed on September 22 that ensured funding of federal nutrition programs, among others, until March 20, 2013. CLASP is closely monitoring the progress of the Farm Bill and working with partner organizations to educate Congress about the importance of protecting SNAP.

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 $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.

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