Senate and House Bills Cut Billions of Dollars in SNAP Benefits

Updates from Capitol Hill

THE SENATE
On Thursday, August 5th, the Senate voted on two important bills, both of which included large cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly “food stamps”), totaling $14.1 billion in lost benefits.

Bill 1:
Federal Aviation Administration Bill (FMAP)

What does aviation have to do with food stamps? This bill actually includes a lot of social service related benefits, such as aid to states, funding for teachers’ salaries, and FMAP, better known as Medicaid – and the version passed Thursday has the unique distinction of being the first bill to have ever reduced SNAP benefits from one period to the next.

Proposed cuts to SNAP are meant to generate $11.9 billion to pay for other elements of the bill. SNAP benefits were increased through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the Senate wishes to eliminate that increase beginning in April 2014.  For example, a family of four would see their SNAP benefits fall by $59 starting in April 2014.

Bill 2 – the most urgent:
Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill)

This bill proposes to end the ARRA increase to SNAP payments by November 2013, with the savings adding up to $2.2 billion, to be used for other child nutrition programs (such as school breakfast and lunch). A family of four would thus see their SNAP benefits fall by $59 starting in November 2013.

The impact: Both of those dates seem so far in the future – surely by then the economy will be better and these cuts will have been worth it, right? Wrong.

Both of these decisions are classic cases of robbing Peter to pay Paul, because the beneficiaries of the other programs mentioned in the bills are also likely to be SNAP recipients, particularly in the case of the child nutrition bill.

The Senate version of the child nutrition bill has many great features. However, the very same low-income youth that the bill targets are also likely to be members of households that already benefit from or are eligible for SNAP. The net impact of this bill will not be to reduce childhood hunger, but rather to shift the deficit in adequate nutrition from school to home. These bills do not increase funding for much-needed anti-hunger programs, but simply move monies around.

SNAP has also proven to be a great investment in the economy, generating $1.84 in economic activity for every $1 in benefits. These cuts are being justified because of the state of the economy, but cutting SNAP seems to foreshadow an even slower economic recovery, not a faster one.
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THE HOUSE
This week the House was called back from August recess and made decisions on both bills highlighted above.

Bill 1:
Federal Aviation Administration Bill (FMAP)

The House passed the Senate version of the bill and President Obama has signed it into law. That means that $11.9 billion in SNAP benefits were cut in order to pay for Medicaid assistance and teacher salaries.

Bill 2 – the most urgent:
Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill)

The House did not vote on child nutrition, so there is still time to prevent further SNAP cuts ($2.2 billion).

Take Action! Calling your senators is easy and quick!

Photo of the Capitol Building by WallyG

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