The House of Representatives vote last week to cut $39 million over the next 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) now must be worked out with the U.S. Senate’s version, which also cut the food stamp program but by far fewer dollars.
The Sept. 19 House vote of 217-210, which garnered no Democrat support, drew criticism from several Jewish groups.
“This is a sad, sad day for America,” declared Abby Leibman, president and CEO at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “This mean-spirited legislation was designed to provoke divisiveness and acrimony.”
The National Council of Jewish Women has long been “a champion of full funding of SNAP,” said Jody Rabhan, deputy director of the organization’s Washington operations.
“NCJW doesn’t believe we should balance the budget on the hungry — children and senior citizens, our nation’s most vulnerable,” she said, adding that her organization plans to “watch very closely” how SNAP, the Farm Bill and a possible shutdown of the government all plays out during the next week or so.
Both the NCJW and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) issued action alerts, urging people to contact their representatives and ask them to fully fund SNAP.
According to JCPA, the House’s reduction “would leave up to 6 million food insecure Americans without vital support, including 200,000 hungry children who would no longer have access to free school meals.”
Besides cutting funds, the House vote limits automatic eligibility for food stamps and eliminates a state’s option to seek a waiver from the requirement that able-bodied adults need to work or be in a job training program to receive extended SNAP benefits.
In 2008, the government spent $28.2 billion on this program. Now it spends $37.6 billion, according to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). In 2008, there were 47 million people enrolled, and now there are more than 78.4 million, he noted.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, “those increases are largely related to the severe recession and slow recovery.”
Many of the Republicans voting for the cuts said the program had grown too large and that not everyone on it is truly deserving. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said SNAP is “designed to give people a hand when they need it the most.” He said most Americans “don’t choose to be on food stamps.”
However, he added while speaking on the floor of the House of Representative before casting his vote, there are those who abuse the system, leaving all of America to pay the increased cost.
“There is dignity in work,” noted Cantor, who helped write the Republican plan.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) labeled the Republican’s plan a “nutrition denying bill.” He said the Republican plan cuts 210,000 children from the school meals program.
Hoyer asked, “Has America fallen so low?” He said he recognized the need to bring down the deficit, “but not on the backs of the poor.”
Roughly 12.5 percent of Maryland households had trouble feeding their families between 2009-2011, according to the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Virginia, a little more than 9 percent of households were food insecure.