As of November 1, the temporary increase in SNAP benefits provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 expired and monthly benefits have decreased by amounts ranging from $11 for an individual to $36 for a family of four.
While painful, this is just a small decrease when compared to the SNAP funding cut by $40 Billion over ten years, approved by the House in their Nutrition bill last September; this cut is ten times larger than that passed by the Senate, on June 18.
While the reduction is shocking, even more shocking was some of the language used in the debate. Sentences such as “SNAP encourages sloth” or “We were too nice to the hungry, but now we are fixing that”.
Obviously, those using this language do not understand the reality. SNAP is a meager subsidy, of less than $1.40 per meal, for people either stuck in very low paying jobs or unable to find work at all. Compare that with the daily meal allowance of $127.41 received by members of the Agricultural Committee that voted for the funding cut. The allowance that they consider necessary for themselves is 91 times the average daily food-stamp benefit.
The tired argument that SNAP funding cuts are essential to reduce the budget deficit has no credibility, when one considers that Congress left untouched the generous industrial farm subsidies, which are part of the same bill.
Another argument often used against SNAP is that it encourages fraud and abuse. According to the USDA, trafficking diverted an estimated $330 million annually from SNAP benefits – or about one cent of each SNAP dollar – between 2006 and 2008. This is unfortunate, but if fraud is the concern, then the new law should address fraud and not reduce benefits overall.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is very concerned with the proposed SNAP funding cuts, as passed by the Senate ($4 Billion) and by the House ($40 Billion). Cuts of any magnitude will severely affect the people we serve and the Society would like to see them reduced as much as possible.
Currently, the Farm Bill Conference Committee is working at reconciling the SNAP components of the Farm Bill, as approved by the two chambers.
Vincentians residing in the Congressional districts of members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee have contacted them directly stressing our concerns.
The final version of the Farm Bill produced by the Conference Committee will eventually come to the floor of both the Senate and the House; then, all members of Congress will have the opportunity to vote on it. It is therefore important that all legislator fully understand this issue and our concerns.
The Society’s National President, Sheila Gilbert, issued an Action Alert asking all Vincentians to contact their legislators. If you have not seen it, here is a link that will lead you to it:
Please make your voice heard!