Moderated by Tom Sabulis
Saying the nearly $80 billion food-stamp program is out of control, House Republican leaders have narrowly passed a bill to cut funding in half over 10 years. It also adds job or work-training requirements for recipients ages 18 to 50 without minor children. Work continues on the bill. Passionate debate has ensued.
Commenting is open.
By David Scott
CLARIFICATION: This guest column cites $40 billion in cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recently voted on by Republicans in the U.S. House. That amount is the total reduction over 10 years.
Republicans in the House of Representatives recently voted to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
These cuts target our most vulnerable citizens, like seniors, children, veterans and disabled persons. In fact, veterans are the fastest-growing group receiving food stamp benefits. Census data indicate that about 900,000 veterans receive SNAP each month. And this figure is understated, because the Census data do not consider homeless veterans receiving SNAP benefits.
This program is a critical support for many households with veterans. Stars and Stripes reported that food purchases paid for with SNAP at commissaries tripled from 2008 to 2011. Feed our Vets, a nonprofit group that establishes food pantries for veterans, has estimated that nearly 3 million veterans and their families don’t get enough food to eat each month.
This terrible Republican cut of $40 billion reduces the food assistance program by half.
The Republicans held no hearings or did any an analysis of the hurt and pain and hunger this cut will cause the people of our nation. This cut is not only irresponsible, it is downright mean to the American people.
Unfortunately, some in the Republican Party think a SNAP beneficiary is usually black, urban or an illegal immigrant. But here are the facts: 37 percent of food stamp participants are white, 23 percent are African-American, and 10 percent are Hispanic, according to USDA.
SNAP serves more than 47 million Americans; 99 percent live below the poverty line. And that number has been growing due to the recession; our nation lost 300,000 jobs per month between 2008 and 2010.
Thank God we had SNAP as a safety net for people to fall back on. Jobs are now coming back, albeit slowly, and people are getting off food stamps. SNAP is a temporary benefit that helps those struggling to put food on the table until they can get back to self-sufficiency. The average SNAP recipient receives benefits for nine months.
On the issues of waste, fraud and abuse, the facts tell us that SNAP abuse is lower than it’s ever been. In Georgia, the most recent data from FY 2011 show that the SNAP accuracy rate was more than 97 percent, and part of the 3 percent was actually underpayments, which save the government money.
This cut is irresponsible and hurtful. It is especially shameful because we are the United States of America, and we are indeed an exceptional people, because we are a nation with a rich history of care and compassion for the most vulnerable among us. These food assistance cuts for our most needy truly makes us look so little, not the proud and exceptional America that God has truly blessed us to be.
We will not let this Republican $40 billion cut to our vital food and nutrition assistance happen. We must focus first on jobs before cutting food assistance.
Georgia Congressman David Scott, a Democrat, represents the 13th District.
By Benita M. Dodd
The numbers certainly are a cause for concern. The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as the food stamp program, reached nearly 14 percent of U.S. households in 2012. That’s up from 8.6 percent in 2008, at the height of the economic recession. Today, about 48 million Americans rely on the taxpayer-funded program, to the tune of $78 billion a year.
In metro Atlanta, households receiving SNAP benefits have doubled from 7 percent to more than 14 percent; about 60 percent of those have children. A sampling across Georgia shows an alarming increase in recipients: Macon households receiving benefits went from 15 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2012; Albany went from 17 percent to 24 percent; Valdosta went from 11 percent to 21.5 percent and Rome went from 11 percent to 20 percent of households.
With today’s rollback in benefits, a family of four will see maximum payment shrink from $668 a month to $632 – a reduction of $432 over a year. The growing outcry over the rollback comes as no surprise; nobody wants low-income families, children or the elderly to go hungry. But the rollback has been three years coming; the temporary increase was part of President Obama’s federal stimulus bill, which expanded the program by relaxing requirements and increased benefits by 13.6 percent.
This restoration of benefits to their original status should not deteriorate into a political blame game. Both sides of the aisle have acknowledged the need to cut government spending: In June, the Democrat-led Senate approved legislation that included $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts. The Republican-led House last month approved a bill that would cut funding for SNAP by $40 billion over 10 years.
The political grandstanding over the program, unfortunately, is a distraction from the real issue: that there are too many politicians willing to get and keep Americans increasingly dependent on government. The growth in this government benefit has increased even as the economy improves.
The success of a program intended to help low-income individuals should be measured by how many of these individuals are lifted out of poverty. Instead, this program’s success is being measured by how many people government manages to attract and support. Meanwhile, the potential for fraud and abuse is rife, as numerous studies and news reports show. An Associated Press photograph recently showed a SNAP recipient in her kitchen; the bottles of wine and candles lined up behind her were enough to sour even the most compassionate of hardworking taxpayers who must fund the program. Nobody begrudges her a glass of wine, but the idea that I am forced to pay for her children’s groceries while she spends her money on bottles of wine does not sit well.
The good intentions of program supporters does not cancel out the need for individuals to escape poverty through jobs and economic opportunity. Unless and until Congress cuts back on spending and reaching into hardworking taxpayers’ pockets to fund dependency, the opportunity for economic growth that creates jobs in the private sector will not occur. Until and unless Congress acts to relieve the overbearing regulatory burdens, mandates and costs that are being imposed on businesses in this country, the kinds of jobs that can advance Americans out of poverty will not be created.
Washington needs to end the bickering over how many fish to feed the five thousand and step back so that the five thousand learn how to feed themselves the traditional American way – through a work ethic. .
Benita M. Dodd is vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.