Democratic congressmen are prepared to fight if Republican-controlled Congress moves to reduce food stamps or cut the program from the farm bill.
“If next year, the Republican leadership wants to block grant or cut the [food stamps] program or put more hurdles in place to deny people a benefit to put food on their table – be prepared for one hell of a fight,” Rep. Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, said during a House Committee on Agriculture hearing Wednesday. “Because this is a fight worth having.” (RELATED: Congress Mulls Allowing Online Food Stamp Purchases)
The committee has held 18 hearings on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also called food stamps, in the last two years.
Wednesday’s hearing, “The Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: Opportunities for Improving Access to Food,” focused on new pilot programs to test how food stamps could be used to purchase food online.
Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Conaway, Republican of Texas, said the hearings on food stamps were scheduled “simply to find out what’s working and what’s not working” in the SNAP program. “It was never intended to cut SNAP, but to improve it. And if we can get the policies right, the we can figure out whether or not we can afford them,” Conaway said in his closing remarks.
McGovern continued, “we have learned, from both majority and minority witnesses, that SNAP is not only a good program, but a very good program. It works.”
McGovern said that if food and nutrition is important to the nation, Congress should look for ways to increase the program. “If we want to talk about improving access to food, we should be discussing ways to increase SNAP benefits. If anything, the average benefit of $1.40 per person, per meal is too low.”
More than 43 million Americans currently receive SNAP benefits, and the government will pay about $45 billion in benefits this year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. (RELATED: GOP Focuses On Work To Fix America’s Food Stamp Problem)
Food stamps enrollment spiked in 2012 with nearly 48 million people enrolled in the program, but enrollment has slowly declined since. McGovern mentioned that SNAP “helped to keep over 10 million people out of poverty in 2012, including almost 5 million children.”
After the 2008 recession, President Barack Obama allowed states to waive work requirement, which allowed able-bodied adults without children to receive benefits without proving they were looking for a job.
Republicans tried and failed to remove the food stamps program from the 2014 Farm Bill, but the 66-page platform agreed upon at the Republican National Convention last July suggested that Congress “separate the administration of SNAP from the Department of Agriculture,” which would mean that appropriations for the welfare program would likely have to come from another piece of legislation.
Conaway said the hearings on food stamps were scheduled “simply to find out what’s working and what’s not working” in the SNAP program. “It was never intended to cut SNAP, but to improve it. And if we can get the policies right, the we can figure out whether or not we can afford them,” he said in his closing remarks.
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