For Immediate Release: June 21, 2018
Contact: Magen Allen, Mallen@hungerfreeamerica.org, (212) 825-0028, ext. 212
Advocates React to G.O.P. House Farm Bill Passage:
“Given This Awful Bill So Different from Senate,
Next Congress Should Go Back to Drawing Board”
Facts about House Farm Bill Proposal and U.S. Hunger:
- House Republicans today passed a Farm Bill that would cut billions of additional dollars –in addition to the billions of dollars previously cut from the program over the last eight years – from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
- Most of the money cut would come from limiting the flexibility of states to enable low-income working families to receive SNAP and allow limited numbers of unemployed people to continue to receive food help as they are looking for work.
- Many states use a provision known as “categorical eligibility” to enable families making slightly more than 130 percent of the poverty line, because they work in low-wage jobs, to be able to obtain SNAP benefits. The House GOP proposal would limit the ability of states to do so.
- Between five to seven million unemployed Americans would lose food benefits if they did not meet the new work reporting requirements that would be imposed on states under this proposal.
- Under current law, SNAP recipients above the age of 50 are exempt from work requirements; the House proposal would raise that age to 59, meaning that, if an American who was 58 was laid off from their job, they would be unable to access food unless they got a new job or reported to a job training program.
- SNAP is already effective in enabling work outside the home. According to Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 90 percent of SNAP households with children had at least one parent working for income the year before and the year after getting SNAP and nearly three-quarters of adults who participate in SNAP in a typical month work either that month or within a year of that month of participation. As is the case with unemployment insurance, people pay for SNAP with their tax dollars when they are working, and, if they are temporarily unemployed, they then receive back, in the form of benefits, a bit of what they have previously paid into the system.
- The vast majority of Americans who rely on SNAP are children, older Americans, people with disabilities, and working people. The House G.O.P. proposal would reduce benefits for many in most of these categories.
- Only about 7 percent of SNAP recipients are classified as Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDS) who are not currently working. Many people who are in this category are veterans, some of whom have undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorders.
- The House G.O.P. proposal adds little money for job creation, job training, or job creation. Eliminating waivers won’t create jobs— doing so would mostly increase bureaucracy and paperwork by forcing SNAP participants to take time out of their jobs or their job searches to report to a SNAP agency that they are working or looking for work, and then force states and counties to record and report those activities.
- In 2016, according to the USDA, 41 million Americans, (a population larger than the combined populations of Texas and New England), suffered from food insecurity, unable to always afford a sufficient supply of food. Hunger Free America’s analysis of USDA data has found that 15 million American adults in 2016 were working for income but still lived in households that were food insecure. The House GOP proposal would likely increase the number of Americans, including working Americans, suffering from food insecurity.
Facts about Trump Proposal to Drug-Test SNAP Participants
- The Associated Press has reported that the Trump administration plans to allow states to require drug testing for SNAP participants.
- Such a new requirement would violate current federal law, which prohibits the federal government or states from adding existing participation requirements to SNAP that are not already specified in the law. Drug-testing is not a requirement specified under current law.
- Even though federal law allows states to put more requirements on cash assistance applicants than SNAP applicants, a federal appeals court declared that Florida’s drug-testing requirement for cash assistance applicants was an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. The court also found that there was no evidence that recipients of cash assistance were any more likely to use drugs than the population as a whole.
- In 2013, then- Congressman Trey Radel, who has previously voted to impose drug-testing on SNAP recipients, was convicted for cocaine possession.
Statement from Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Frere America
“Both the House GOP Farm Bill and the Trump Administration drug-testing idea are cruel and counter-productive. Both would somehow manage to take food away from mass numbers of Americans while increasing government bureaucracy and intrusion into people’s private lives.
The House G.O.P. bill adds little money for job creation, job training, or job creation. Trying to place more people in employment without spending more money on employment would be as ineffective as trying to solve drought without more water.
The Republicans repeatedly say they want to increase flexibility that states have to administer federal safety net programs. Yet the vast majority of savings in the House G.O.P. proposal would occur by taking away flexibility from states. It seems likely the only matter on which they are ideologically consistent is shafting low-income Americans.
I also note that it is unfair, and odd, that federal policy – and especially federal policy relating to USDA programs – selectively applies work requirements only to programs primarily used by low-income Americans. When USDA lavishes millions of dollars of farm subsidies on wealthy individuals who happen to own farm land, there is no requirement that the subsidy recipient work at all, no less perform farm work on that parcel of land. When a stockholder in a corporation receives a financial benefit because that corporation receives financial assistance from USDA for operations in rural areas, there is no work requirement for such a stockholder. The monetary value of taxpayer funding received by wealthy land owners or business owners from USDA almost always dwarfs the meager federal assistance received by SNAP participants, which now averages only $1.42 per meal. If work requirements are to be applied to participants of federal aid, they should apply to people of all programs, regardless of the economic status of the people who utilize those programs.
Moreover, the G.O.P focus on work reporting requirements and drug-testing is a smoke screen from their proposal to cut billions of dollars from nutrition assistance, including from low-income working families.
If the President and Congress really wanted to decrease U.S. hunger and increase paid employment they would create more jobs and ensure that they pay a living wage.
We hope the new Congress, next January, starts from scratch and passes a progressive bill that slashes hunger, aids small farmers, creates jobs, protects the environment, boosts nutrition, improves food safety, and benefits consumers.”