With the current SNAP funding authorization expiring at the end of September, on June 18, the Senate passed a five year extension of the farm bill (through fiscal year 2018), on a 66-27 vote. The extension included $4 billion in cuts to SNAP, which, according to Bread for the World, would affect nearly half a million families and reduce monthly benefits by $90.
Then, the House examined another version of the bill that cut $20.5 billion dollars from SNAP by limiting how low-income individuals qualify for the program, as well as restricting lottery winners and undocumented immigrants from accessing SNAP benefits. This cut would remove 2 million people from the program and cause more than 200,000 low-income children to lose access to school meals.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul wrote a joint letter to each member of the House, setting forth their priorities for food and agriculture policies and rejecting cuts to SNAP of such a magnitude.
On Thursday, June 20, the House of Representatives, with a 234-195 vote, rejected the reauthorization of the farm bill and its $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, with varying motivations. Some House members criticized the bill for its deep cuts, while others voted against it because they considered the cuts too shallow.
The House expects to bring back the Farm Bill after the current recess (as soon as next week) with the hope of getting something passed by mid-July. They might still go with the last bill and the $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, although some in the House still want to propose cuts that are even more devastating.
If the House bill passes, our job will be to put pressure on the Conference Committee, when appointed. That will be a rather quick turnaround. The Senate bill has only $4B in cuts, so we obviously would want them to move closer to that bill.
We will continue to monitor how the matter will move forward, as the splitting of the farm bill into pieces is also a possibility, separating SNAP from the rest of the bill, making a compromise between the House and Senate more complex. If the House and the Senate will be unable to reach an agreement before the SNAP funding September 30 expiration date, Congress would have to pursue a temporary funding measure or see the law’s agriculture supports revert to their 1949 levels.
From the discussion that has taken place, members of the House seem to ignore or not understand the social validity of SNAP, a program that has moved people towards self-sufficiency, rather than build dependency.
University of California at Davis’ economist Hilary Hoynes and her team studied adults, born between 1956 and 1981, “who grew up in disadvantaged families.” They found that “access to food stamps in utero and in early childhood led to significant reductions in metabolic syndrome conditions (obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes) in adulthood; for women, it also increased economic self-sufficiency (increases in educational attainment, earnings and income, and decreases in welfare participation).”
Arloc Sherman, senior researcher, at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities commented: “The power of this study is that it goes all the way back to when the program was first being rolled out, county by county, and it looks all the way forward, to see how children’s decades-long trajectories changed as a result. A baby girl fortunate enough to be born after food stamps had arrived in her particular county was doing significantly better, years later, in terms of health, education and all around self-sufficiency. Some in Congress may not realize it but this program hasn’t been stifling long-term self-sufficiency, it’s been building it.”
The following link leads to a NPR segment about “The Faces of America’s Hungry”, an interview by Bill Moyers about food insecurity with the authors of the documentary “A place at the table”. This interview is a MUST SEE.