By Tamera Willis
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is urging Congress to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. In its letter, The Leadership Conference notes that proposed cuts to the program would have a devastating impact on vulnerable communities such as young children, students, seniors, the jobless, the hungry, and the uninsured.
The letter opposes the inclusion of the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 3102) in the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 2642). The provisions of H.R. 3102 would impose harsh cuts to SNAP, hurting millions of Americans and preventing economic growth. H.R. 3102 would cut almost $40 billion from SNAP and deny assistance to nearly three million vulnerable Americans. More than 80 percent of SNAP recipients already live in poverty, and cutting their assistance so heavily would be particularly devastating.
The 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act provided a temporary increase in SNAP benefits to stimulate the economy and lessen the downturn’s impact on low-income families. The Half in Ten campaign’s most recent annual poverty report indicates that SNAP “lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty by helping struggling families put adequate and nutritional food on their tables.” The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act expired on October 30, reducing these benefits for millions of Americans.
The letter further acknowledges the importance of reducing the national debt, recognizing that the most responsible way for Congress to address long-term debt is through targeted revenue increases instead of making significant cuts to programs that assist our nation’s most impoverished and disadvantaged.
“While we agree that it is vital to address our nation’s long-term debt, there is something fundamentally inhumane about a plan that would impose new “savings” entirely on the backs of the people who can least afford them,” Leadership Conference President & CEO Wade Henderson and Executive Vice President Nancy Zirkin said in the letter.
Ranking member Senator Thad Cochran, R. Miss., has stated that it is important for the conference committee to reach a consensus as soon as possible. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D.Mich., chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, released a statement noting that “the bill passed by the House…is not a real Farm Bill and is an insult to rural America, which is why it’s strongly opposed by more than 500 farm, food and conservation groups. We will go to conference with the bipartisan, comprehensive Farm Bill that was passed in the Senate that not only reforms programs, supports families in need and creates agriculture jobs, but also saves billions more than the extremely flawed House bill.”