(From Indivisible National) The farm bill covers many issues related to food and agriculture (including farm subsidies, rural development, and bioenergy). It’s usually authorized every five years, and it is set to expire this year.
The bill includes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamps”)—and Republicans want to make massive cuts to it. SNAP is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, and helps 1 in 8 Americans, especially children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Despite providing modest benefits—the average SNAP benefit is about $1.40 per person per meal—SNAP is incredibly successful at fighting food insecurity and reducing poverty.
The farm bill is normally a bipartisan bill, but House Republicans have already passed a purely partisan bill. The bill we expect to see on the floor the week of May 14 will take away people’s food assistance. But even worse, it is a test case for the broader Republican agenda of punishing Americans who are struggling by imposing time limits and work requirements on our nation’s safety net. They want to do this across the board, and if they get away with it on SNAP, other programs like Medicaid will surely follow.
What are the Republicans trying to do to SNAP?Right now, SNAP recipients between the ages of 18 and 49 already have to work at least 20 hours a week to receive their benefits after a three-month grace period. States are able to waive these requirements during economic downturns to ensure that people can still have access to food.
Under the new Republican bill, these requirements would be tightened considerably. Beginning in 2021, SNAP recipients between the ages of 18 and 59 would be required prove, every month, that they had worked at least 20 hours per week. If a person fails to do so, they can lose their SNAP benefits for a year—and each subsequent infraction would cause them to be locked out of receiving benefits for three years. The bill also takes away state flexibility to make the program easier for participants to use.
If the House Republican farm bill is signed into law, up to 2 million people could lose some or all of their benefits. These cuts would be particularly acute for:
- People in rural areas,
- Low-income women and working women, since the enhanced work requirement would punish people whose work schedules are inconsistent by barring them from receiving benefits if they don’t work at least 20 hours every week of the month. Work requirements do not count much of the informal labor that women disproportionately take on (such as being a caretaker for a family member) as “work.” The additional documentation requirements would also make it much easier for a busy person, such as a working mom, to accidentally lose her benefits because of a clerical error.
- People with disabilities, who would have to deal with difficult exemption requirements in order to receive SNAP despite the new work requirements. It would also put their caretakers (whose labor would not meet the definition of “work” under these requirements) at risk of losing their benefits.
For the 42 million Americans who depend on SNAP, these changes would be devastating.
Republicans have been playing a cynical game in selling their partisan farm bill. They say it has no SNAP cuts. Don’t be fooled: the House Agriculture Committee farm bill would cut or take away SNAP benefits from at least 2 million people and we expect that amount will be much higher if it became law.
That’s because the SNAP proposal takes the “savings” from cutting SNAP benefits by $17 billion, and uses that funding to create giant state bureaucracies to track compliance with the harsh new work requirements, and to fund unproven, unscalable job training programs that are unlikely to help people find work—and certainly won’t do anything to replace their lost food assistance.
Time to call Steve Knight & say something like:
I am calling from [zip code] to urge the Congressman to vote No on H.R. 2, the House farm bill,. This bill would create state bureaucracies while taking food away from millions of people, including seniors, children, and the disabled.