March 2013 U.S. Poverty Action

The House and Senate have begun work on their FY 2014 budget resolutions. Last year, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) proposed a budget that included severe cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and discretionary spending. The House is expected to propose a similar budget this year, with cuts possibly going even deeper. The House and Senate Budget Committees will probably take up their FY2014 budget resolution the week of March 11, with floor action to follow quickly in both chambers. It is doubtful the two chambers can reach a deal on a Budget Resolution. However, their budget proposals will help shape the later debate as Congress takes up legislation to address the debt ceiling and enact further deficit reduction. There is a risk that SNAP could be deeply cut, perhaps in multiple packages — in a broad budget deal and perhaps again in the Farm Bill later this year. That is why our work to speak up about the importance of protecting SNAP is so critical.

Take Action! Write Letters Urging Congress to Protect SNAP

  1. Introduce yourself to your representative or senator as a constituent and as a person who is concerned about child poverty in America.
  2. Inform them that in 2011, nearly 1 in 4 children in the U.S. were at risk of going to bed hungry every night (22.4 percent or 16.6 million children). Studies show that children who are regularly hungry suffer from weakened immune systems, slowed and abnormal growth, and anemia.
  3. Remind them that decades ago, our nation made ending hunger a priority, especially childhood hunger, by creating the Food Stamp Program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.
  4. Since then, SNAP has been critical in helping low-income families put food on the table and in reducing poverty. The U.S. Census reports that SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011, nearly half of them children.
  5. Explain that you are frustrated that some politicians in Washington want to abandon our commitment to ending hunger in America by drastically cutting or restructuring SNAP. This would result in millions of people losing access to these vital benefits.
  6. Tell your representatives and senators that Americans don’t want children and families going hungry. Urge them to talk to House/Senate leadership and Agriculture Committee members, telling them to protect SNAP from any budget cuts. We must protect and strengthen SNAP and work harder to end hunger in America.
  7. 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 early childhood 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, aka 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; that’s nearly triple the monthly average in 2000 (17 million). SNAP has also been integral in helping families during the Great Recession. According to the U.S. Census, SNAP kept 4.7 million people stay out of poverty in 2011. Also, a recent study from Iowa State University shows that SNAP reduces hunger in children by 25 percent and poor health outcomes in children by 35 percent. In addition, SNAP is a key economic stimulus for local economies. Every dollar in SNAP benefits spent creates nearly two dollars in economic activity. Economist Mark Zandi has said that the fastest way to infuse money into the economy is by increasing SNAP benefits.

Despite SNAP’s efficiency and effectiveness, some in Congress are determined to drastically cut and restructure the program. In 2012, the Senate passed Farm Bill cut SNAP by $4.5 billion, which would have cut benefits for 500,000 people. The House proposed $16 billion in SNAP cuts, which would have forced more than two million low-income Americans off SNAP. Fortunately, neither of these plans became law. However, the threats against SNAP remain very real.

As Congress considers a new budget and new Farm Bill in 2013, powerful factions in Washington will again target SNAP for major cuts as a way to save money. Balancing the budget on the backs of America’s most vulnerable is wrong. It undercuts our values and sullies our reputation as a leader among nations. We all must stand up and tell Congress to do what is right — protect hungry children and families by protecting and strengthening SNAP!