November 2013 U.S. Poverty Action

Take Action! Do Strategic Follow Up to Protect SNAP (Food Stamps) in Final Farm Bill

On October 30, House and Senate leaders began the formal Farm Bill Conference Committee. We must continue to urge Congress to work to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) in any final Farm Bill or broader budget legislation. The House has already passed legislation that would cut $40 billion from SNAP, and the Senate’s proposal cuts SNAP by $4 billion. These discussions to cut SNAP are coming on the heels of an $11 billion across-the-board cut to SNAP that went into effect on November 1. We cannot let Congress do more harm to hungry individuals and families. This month we will focus on pushing our senators and representatives to weigh in with key negotiators as they work to finalize a Farm Bill – by directly communicating with key aides in Washington, and using opportunities to weigh in with members of Congress while they are home, using these talking points.

  1. Introduce yourself to your representative or senator as a constituent and as a person who is concerned about poverty in America.
  2. Remind them that in 2012, more than 1 in 5 children in the U.S. were at risk of going to bed hungry every night (21.6 percent). Studies show that children who are regularly hungry suffer from weakened immune systems, slowed and abnormal growth, and anemia.
  3. Highlight that SNAP is working -- the U.S. Census reports that SNAP lifted 5 million people out of poverty in 2012
  4. Explain that you are disappointed that both the House and Senate are proposing cuts to SNAP. In particular, express your dismay that the House passed a bill that would cut the program by $40 billion over the next ten years on September 18, forcing 3.8 million Americans off the program and denying 210,000 children free meals at school.
  5. In particular, point out the cruel and counterintuitive nature of the House's proposed SNAP cuts – the legislation would force 1.7 million unemployed Americans off the program who live in high unemployment areas and want to work but cannot find a job or a slot in a job training program.
  6. Discuss your specific concerns about the Southerland amendment – a provision in the House bill that throws parents with children as young as one who cannot find work or are unable to find safe and affordable child care for their young children off SNAP. Only one out of six low-income families eligible for child care assistance are able to receive it now.
  7. Urge your representative/senator to talk to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson / Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran, telling them to protect SNAP in any new Farm Bill or other legislation. 
  8. Thank them for their time and ask for a prompt response to your letter.

Note: To find contact information for congressional offices and the name of the nutrition aide, visit our Elected Officials page (http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/). For directory assistance, you can also contact the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Congress Looks to Cut Nutrition Assistance When It Is Helping Millions

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is the first line of defense against hunger in America. Currently, over 47 million people — almost half of them children — receive SNAP benefits. SNAP has also been integral in helping families during the Great Recession. Based on U.S. Census data, SNAP kept 5 million people out of poverty in 2012. SNAP also boasts one of the highest accuracy rates and lowest fraud rates of any government program.

Despite SNAP’s success, Congress is looking to cut SNAP benefits for hundreds of thousands of low-income families. First, each SNAP household’s monthly SNAP allotment went down at least 5.5 percent as the temporary benefit increase from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was terminated on October  For example, a household of four now gets $36 less in SNAP benefits per month compared to October. In FY 2014 alone, this cut to SNAP benefits totals $5 billion and $11 billion over the next three years.

On top of these automatic cuts to SNAP, Congress has proposed to slash the program further. The Senate passed its Farm Bill (S.954) on June 10 with a bipartisan vote of 66 to 27. It includes $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP. This cut would reduce SNAP benefits for half a million households by an average of $90 per month. On September 19, the House passed H.R. 3102, which denies food assistance for 3.8 million Americans, by a vote of 217-210. It would also deny 210,000 low-income school children meals at school, impose harsh work requirements on families, and institute drug testing for SNAP recipients. Feeding America estimates that food banks across America would have to double the number of meals served next year to make up for the ARRA cut plus the House SNAP cuts.

In particular, the House legislation rewards states for cutting participants off of SNAP if they cannot find a job or a job training program, including families with children. This provision is especially troubling for families with young children for whom employment is contingent upon getting affordable child care. Historically, parents with children have been exempt from SNAP work requirements, but under the House bill only parents with children under one year of age would be exempt. As RESULTS volunteers know well after years of advocating for early childhood programs, only one out of six low-income families eligible for child care assistance are able to receive it now. The House legislation also does not include money to expand job training. At a time when unemployment remains high and there are three job seekers for every job opening, this provision rewards states by letting them keep half of any SNAP savings generated from reduced caseloads, which they could spend on anything they choose. States that do not adopt these strict work requirements would lose their existing federal funding for job training.

While SNAP opponents claims these changes are needed to promote work and combat almost non-existent waste and fraud in SNAP, in reality these policies are designed to do one thing – kick people off SNAP.

What It Comes Down to: Pressuring Farm Bill Negotiators

Farm Bill negotiations (the Farm Bill includes SNAP) have already begun. House and Senate leaders [House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson / Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran ] and their staff are working to finalize a deal. Other members of the Farm Bill conference committee are key players as well. They are:

Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee Members: Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI; Agriculture Committee Chair), Thad Cochran (R-MS; Agriculture Committee Ranking Member), John Boozman (R-AR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Max Baucus (D-MT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

House Farm Bill Conference Committee Members: Reps. Frank D. Lucas (R-OK-3; Agriculture Committee Chair), Collin Peterson (D-MN-7; Agriculture Committee Ranking Member), Martha Roby (R-AL-2), Mike D. Rogers (R-AL-3), Rick Crawford (R-AR-1), Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), Jim Costa (D-CA-16), Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA-35), Ed Royce (R-CA-39), Steve Southerland (R-FL-2), Austin Scott (R-GA-8), Rodney Davis (R-IL-13), Steve King (R-IA-4), Jim McGovern (D-MA-2), Dave Camp (R-MI-4), Sandy Levin (D-MI-9), Tim Walz (D-MN-1), Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7), Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11), Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5), Glenn Thompson (R-PA-5), Tom Marino (R-PA-10), Kristi Noem (R-SD-AL), Sam Johnson (R-TX-3), K. Michael Conaway (R-TX-11), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX-19), Filemon Vela (D-TX-34), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1).

By pushing our own elected leaders to weigh in with these negotiators, we can influence the final outcome. Conversations with Senate and House nutrition aides about protecting SNAP is needed now. Coordinate with others in your RESULTS network to make sure you communicate directly with the key aides. In addition, contact House and Senate schedulers to see if you can schedule a face-to-face meeting with your members of Congress during recesses this month. The House is on recess from now through November 11 and both the Senate and House will be on recess later this month. These meetings could make the difference on what happens to SNAP.

We’ll discuss our strategies to protect SNAP and hear from Angela Sutton from Witnesses to Hunger (some of you will remember Angela’s powerful story from last summer’s RESULTS International Conference) on the next RESULTS National Conference Call: Saturday, November 9, at 12:30pm ET. The call-in number is (888) 409-6709.