A few months ago, Congress cut approximately $5 billion in the food stamp benefits program. Now it seems more reductions will occur again. Food stamp users will get hit with an $8.7 billion reduction in the SNAP program over the next several years. Experts have predicted the reduction will cause households to lose about $90 per month in SNAP assistance. Congress and lawmakers are currently working out the kinks in the Farm Bill so it can take effect soon.
Most Senators and state Representatives believe that the proposed Farm Bill will benefit everyone in American. Indiana Republican Marlin A. Stutzman states “I don’t think we should be focused on the cuts; I think we should be focused on the efficiency of the program and who it’s genuinely helping.” Florida Republican Steve Southerland also states, “I think that individual members are going to have to make their decision: ‘Is my support of a Farm Bill based on a number or is it based on a meshing of the number and the policy reforms?'” According to experts, if Congress does not enforce the proposed Farm Bill, the Agriculture Department will be forced to abide by the 1949 law which forces the federal government to buy inflated-priced milk; this will also hurt consumers regardless if they’re receiving food stamp benefits or not.
Of course not everyone is happy about the proposed Farm Bill and their are people who will totally vote against the entire bill. Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Jack Reed said, “he would be very upset if cuts are included.” New York Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand feels the same way, describing the plan as “the wrong approach.” Massachusetts Democratic Representative Jim McGovern is reportedly not going to support the Farm Bill. He says “I am not going to support a Farm Bill that increases hunger, period.”
The Farm Bill is said to affect only 15 states across the U.S., including New York and California. Not only will the Farm Bill hit food stamp users, but also hunger shelters that provide food to low-income families. A reduction in food stamp benefits means more people will flock to hunger shelters for free meals. According to a hunger shelter worker in Pennsylvania, the shelter cannot double its capacity to provide food for those who will lose their food stamp benefits. Experts predict that the proposed Farm Bill will largely affect the disabled and elderly food stamp recipients. In McGovern’s argument against the Farm Bill, he told the story of an elderly man who is currently receiving food stamp benefits; yet, he’s struggling to pay his medical bills and other healthcare expenses because most of his medical expenses are not covered by Medicaid. This elderly man is getting $181 per month for SNAP assistance; if the Farm Bill passes, the man’s [food stamp] benefits will lose $80 per month.
It seems food stamp users will get hit again with another reduction of SNAP benefits over the next 10 years. As Congress is finalizing the Farm Bill, consumers are also divided among the issue. Even if the Farm Bill does not pass and the current food stamp benefits level remains steady, a $6 billion cut will automatically kick in as part of the “hunger cliff.”
By Bridget Cunningham