Bill Will Increase Food Insecurity and Hardships

KINGSTON – Citizen Action of New York, Hunger Action Network of NYS and NYS Council of Churches held a “Pray In” outside Congressman Faso’s Kingston District office recently. Religious leaders and people of all faiths came together to demand Congressman Faso show real leadership for those facing hunger in his district.

In the 19th Congressional District, 73,830 people, including children, seniors, veterans, working poor, college students, people with disabilities and others are facing food insecurity, meaning they do not know where their next meal is coming from. Instead of creating good jobs with living wages, providing affordable health care and improving the safety net for those in poverty, Congressman Faso and the Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee chose to take food out of the mouths of the hungry.

“Food stamps are a hand up, not a hand out. These cuts will have a devastating impact our seniors, disabled, pregnant mothers, children, working poor and low to moderate income families” stated Quintin Cross, Lead Organizer, Citizen Action of New York.

The proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) would end or cut benefits for a substantial number of low-income people.

SNAP is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, helping 1 in 8 Americans afford a basic diet, with most of the SNAP participants being children, seniors, or people with disabilities. SNAP is the first line of defense for those in poverty; when the economy improved in 2016, SNAP lifted 3.6 million people out of poverty. And despite providing moderate benefits – averaging about $1.40 per person per meal- the program combats food insecurity, alleviates poverty and has long term positive impacts on health as well as children’ educational attainment.

The House Agriculture Committee held over 20 hearings on SNAP over the course of two years. The results revealed a program that is effective and serves the very purpose of the program. SNAP is there when people need it to help them through hard times. Since the recession, SNAP caseloads fell this past January 2018 by 1.9 million over previous January, the lowest level since April 2010.

For more than four decades, SNAP has enjoyed strong bipartisan support and has helped ensure that vulnerable low-income people in our nation can put food on the table. SNAP relieves pressure on overwhelmed food banks, pantries, religious congregations and other emergency food providers across the country, that could not begin to meet the need for food.

Susan Zimet, Executive Director of Hunger Action Network of NYS said “The current administration has total disdain for any one who is not fortunate enough to be in the top 1%. The recent tax legislation benefits those who already have the best food, housing and health care that money can buy. And then they turn around and try to balance the budget on the back of those with little to no food, unsafe housing and no health care. It is immoral.”

Peter Cook, Executive Director of New York State Council of Churches, said “the cuts in benefits combined with additional and cumbersome work requirement rules are designed to push more hungry people off the roles while adding an extra layer of bureaucracy to micro manage people. We over regulate the poor and under regulate the rich. It is just wrong that we have poor people sacrificing so much in order to pay for the budget busting tax cuts for the wealthy who least need them and are not investing that money in our economy and good jobs”.

The draft farm bill, seeks to erode the effectiveness of SNAP in ensuring that those who struggle against hunger can afford to put food on the table. The proposals in this bill would lead to greater hunger and poverty among all types of beneficiary families, including the working poor, as well as reduced economic growth and productivity in communities across the country.

Rev. Erica Baron stated “ Let’s be clear about what we’re talking about here. We are talking about support that helps the very poor to get enough food to eat. The fact that in a nation as wealthy as ours there are even people who need this benefit at all is an indictment of our collective moral values. Especially when we consider that 75% of SNAP beneficiaries who are able to work are working or looking for work. The fact that you can work a full-time job in the United States and still not make enough to live on is appalling. We are talking here about one of the very most fundamental human needs – enough food to eat.”

To make matters even worse, Congressman Faso has chosen to demonize those who benefit from SNAP as evidenced by the recent article entitled Faso continues push to link food stamps to crime

Studies, however, show fraud related to SNAP small percentage of billions used. A report last month by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service said fraud in the program is “rare” and that such cases “represent a relatively small fraction of SNAP overall.”

“The facts simply do not support the vicious erosion of our nation’s most essential nutrition program proposed under the 2018 Farm Bill,” said Rashida Tyler, State Board of Directors of Citizen Action of New York. “SNAP is already an efficient program and data shows that fraud is rare. A state-level study found that for every 10,000 households participating in SNAP only about 14 were found to have committed fraud. Also, an able-bodied adult without any dependents can only receive up to 3 months of SNAP assistance within 3 years. If one is truly concerned with ensuring those who are needy are helped, they would be fighting to provide jobs that pay a living wage, ensuring that no child goes hungry, and helping to provide greater access to programs such as SNAP that have been proven to lift families out of poverty, instead of trying to cut them.”

Susan Zimet added “This narrative helps to support those trying to demonize SNAP recipients and worse, discourage those from applying for the needed help due to concerns about being labeled criminals and drug dealers.”

The proposals by the House Agriculture Committee:

● Under this bill, large numbers of working families with children would no longer receive SNAP, there would be a much harsher “cliff effect” in the program, and, in turn, children would be denied access to other essential anti-hunger programs, such as school breakfast and lunch, putting their health and learning at risk.

● Many low-income households, including those that receive SNAP, are often forced to choose between paying heating bills or buying food. The bill slashes the amount of benefits for SNAP households struggling to pay for both utilities and food — to “heat and eat.”

● The bill also seeks to expand dramatically the number of people subject to harsh SNAP eligibility cutoffs by adding unemployed and underemployed parents with older children and adults up to age 60. Currently, time limits apply to able-bodied adults age 18–50 without dependents, many of whom are between jobs or do not have steady enough work to meet the 20-hour per week minimum, often for reasons outside of their control. Others face significant barriers to work, such as lack of job opportunities and lack of transportation to get to the few available jobs.

Congress must recognize that large numbers of their constituents in every part of the country are struggling, and the solution to lifting people out of hunger and poverty is to increase the amount of SNAP benefits for people who need them and support well-paying jobs that provide real opportunity for people to support themselves and their families based on their earnings.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle need to reject the draconian cuts to SNAP in the draft bill that threaten to needlessly kick millions of people off an effective, proven program — one that helps struggling individuals and families put food on the table and keeps or lifts millions of people out of poverty each year.

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