By Emma Kornetsky, Government Affairs Manager
We told you before why we care about the Farm Bill – because of its impact on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and thus on food insecurity in our communities. SNAP provides 12 times more meals than the entire food bank system in our country, helping millions of struggling Americans and improving education and health outcomes in the process.
Last Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee passed a version of the Farm Bill that is, in one word, terrible. Included in the bill are many specific and complicated policies, but the intention is clear: cut people out of the SNAP program.
Most egregiously, this Farm Bill would increase the number of people required to work 20+ hours per week or take 20+ hours of training a week in order to be eligible for SNAP, adding some parents and older adults. It also shortens the three-month benefit period for those who aren’t working to just one month. Under this proposed policy, a mother with a seven-year-old child who isn’t working will have one month to find a job or else have her SNAP cut off and be unable to feed herself or her child.
Supporters of the new Farm Bill point to the fact that the $1 billion that’s saved by kicking people off the SNAP program will be re-invested in job training programs. Almost everyone recognizes work as a valuable tool to self-sufficiency, including Philabundance (this is why we run a job training program!). However, simple math shows us that $1 billion isn’t nearly enough to provide high-quality, effective training to all of the people who will lose their SNAP benefits.
Under this proposed policy, a mother with a seven-year-old child who isn’t working will have one month to find a job or else have her SNAP cut off and be unable to feed herself or her child.
It is estimated that 3 million people would need job training, meaning only $28 of funds would be available per person per month. Our job training program, Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK), costs approximately $1,300 per person per month (for three months) to help just one person gain the skills they need to find employment. Job training programs are wonderful, and we wish that every SNAP recipient would have access to a program like PCK, but the proposal in this Farm Bill wouldn’t allow that. And the simple fact is that our states are not prepared to create a vast, new job-training system. At the end of the day, this Farm Bill will take away people’s food without giving them real opportunities for advancement. More people will end up hungry, and more people will end up in line at our food pantries.
The proposed 2018 Farm Bill would also eliminate a key provision that helps thousands of working Americans called “categorical eligibility.” Without categorical eligibility, people would now dramatically and suddenly lose their SNAP benefits when their income surpassed 130% of the poverty line (versus the current limit of 160% in PA and 185% in NJ). Without categorical eligibility, a parent in a family of three who just got a raise at work and now makes $27,221 — 131% of the poverty line — would be kicked out of the program and lose all of their SNAP benefits that they were using to purchase groceries (potentially hundreds of dollars per month).
The proposed 2018 Farm Bill has a clear message: people who are struggling to find a job don’t deserve food. These “reforms” are simply cuts to SNAP, and will remove tens of thousands of Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents from the program, forcing them to try to find food elsewhere. Unfortunately food banks won’t be able to make up the gap.
Contact your representative today and tell them “VOTE NO on this Farm Bill that cuts SNAP for millions of Americans and increases hunger in our community.”