Food stamp fight


House Republicans have passed legislation that would cut food stamp funding by $40 billion over the next four years. If there's any upside, it's this: the Senate won't agree to such severe cuts.

The Republican legislation passed by a mere seven votes, since even some GOP legislators thought the cuts too draconian. The cuts would boot 3.8 million recipients out of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2014, says an editorial in the New York Times. House Representative Louise Slaughter and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, sent out statements yesterday condemning the legislation. Slaughter voted against the bill, but the other House member representing Monroe County, Republican Chris Collins, voted for it. In her statement, Slaughter had this to say about the bill:

"Decades of expanding inequality, misguided trade agreements and the recent financial crisis have decimated the middle class and destroyed good-paying American jobs, forcing many to temporarily rely on food stamps to feed their families. These are not people living lavishly; these are people who are having trouble finding work in a bad economy or are employed in low-wage jobs that don’t pay enough to make ends meet. They need a little help to get by, and the SNAP program provides a modest benefit of $1.40 per meal to keep Americans from going to bed hungry."

The legislation would also impose new work requirements on SNAP recipients.
The exact effect on local recipients is unclear,  but opponents of the cuts point out that the benefits largely go to children, the elderly, veterans, and people who already have jobs. State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance statistics show that in June, 63,120 Monroe County households, totaling 118,928 people, received SNAP benefits. Of the recipients, 40,459 people were receiving temporary assistance.

Democrats have the majority in the Senate, and that chamber has already passed its own SNAP legislation. The House and Senate bills head to conference negotiations and the severe cuts in the House bill are not expected to survive that process.

But that doesn't mean that SNAP cuts aren't coming, or that new work requirements won't be put into place. House Republicans and Senate Democrats could always find some middle ground. Though the two parties seem to be on opposite ends of the issue, the Senate did pass legislation cutting SNAP funding by $4 billion. But House Republicans and Senate Democrats also don't have to agree on anything — a move that would create complications and uncertainties of its own, particularly in light of a potential government shutdown.