Statement Attributable to Diana Aviv, CEO of Feeding America:
“Late yesterday, the House Budget Committee passed its Fiscal Year 2017 budget resolution introduced earlier in the week by Chairman Tom Price (R-GA). We are deeply alarmed that the plan includes a harmful proposal to convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) into a ‘block grant’ program.
“SNAP provides critical food assistance to people struggling with a slowly recovering economy. Such a harmful change to the structure of SNAP would result in a reduction or complete loss of benefits for millions of people at a time of elevated need, and remove the program’s ability to immediately respond to fluctuations in the economy and changes in need.
“SNAP has a proven track record of not only improving food security but also providing long-term health, education and economic benefits. Food insecurity is clearly linked to poor health, delayed development and behavioral problems for children, and an increased risk for chronic conditions for the elderly, including diabetes and heart disease. SNAP is a smart investment that pays long-lasting dividends. SNAP and other federal nutrition programs provide a critical lifeline that must be maintained.
“Congress passed a bipartisan Farm Bill in 2014 that contributed $23 billion toward deficit reduction, including cuts to SNAP. The House Budget Committee now is resurrecting proposals that were considered and rejected by Congress during the three years of debate on that bill.
“This proposal also comes at a time when at least 500,000 of the most vulnerable SNAP recipients are set to lose benefits due to the harsh three-month time limit on benefits for unemployed childless adults, despite their willingness to work and their efforts to search for a job, or whether there are sufficient work or training opportunities available.
“We can all agree that good jobs are the best solution to hunger, but the reality is that millions of Americans are unemployed. Many others are working but unable to make ends meet. We need to make sure that people who have fallen on hard times can put food on the table until they can get back on their feet.
“States already have considerable flexibility in administering SNAP. The primary consequence of a block grant would be to erode the federal commitment that a family is eligible for the same level of food assistance, regardless of whether they live in Mississippi or Minnesota.
“Current SNAP benefits are already inadequate, and the majority of SNAP benefits are redeemed by day 21 of any given month, leaving many families scrambling to find enough food. The average SNAP household receives about $255 a month in SNAP benefits, which averages less than $1.40 per person per meal.
“Any additional cuts to SNAP would increase demand on the nation’s charitable food system at a time when food banks and other hunger-relief groups are stretched to meet sustained high need.
“We urge Congress to set aside harmful policy proposals that have been previously rejected and to work together to ensure a federal budget that maintains our nation’s longstanding, bipartisan commitment to protecting programs that help ensure vulnerable people have the nutrition assistance they need in hard times.
“Federal poverty reduction policy should promote opportunity and economic mobility, while also ensuring a strong safety net that protects individuals who are facing hard times from hunger. Unfortunately the House Budget falls far short of achieving either goal. We strongly urge members of the House to vote against this budget.”