(May 2013) This coming Tuesday morning, May 14, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee will debate the 2013 Farm Bill and is expected to pass the bill out of the committee later that day. To reduce the deficit, the currently proposed version of the Farm Bill cuts more than $4 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program, or better known as food stamps. Once again, rather than reduce corporate subsidies to insurance companies, many of which are located overseas, the Senate is set to slash a critical safety net for children, seniors and veterans who are in need of food assistance.
If you think that this sounds like Groundhog Day, it does. Last year, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill which contained more than $4 billion in food stamps, despite an impassioned fight by Senator Gillibrand to restore those cuts offset by reducing the federally guaranteed profit rate to crop insurance companies to 12%, from the currently guaranteed rate of 14%. Because the House of Representatives failed to get a version of its own bill on the House floor, the Senate has to start over and pass the bill again this year. Majority Leader Reid hopes to have the bill passed by the full Senate by the end of May.
Senator Gillibrand will renew her fight to restore these devastating cuts in the Committee hearing next week, and if necessary, will reintroduce her amendment on the Senate floor when the bill is taken up for a vote by the full Senate. 32 of Gillibrand’s colleagues recently signed a letter toChairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran urging full funding of the SNAP program. Over 100 national organizations support the Gillibrand amendment, including AARP and Children’s Defense Fund.
A Primer: Who Uses Food Stamps?
Half of food stamp benefit recipients are children. According to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, more than 860,000 New York State children lived in food insecure homes between 2008-2010. This number represents 19.6 percent of New York’s children.
8% are seniors living on fixed incomes.
According to a report, our military service-members used more than $100 million in federal food aid on military bases in just one year alone from 2011-2012. Food assistance for our active duty men and women has tripled since 2008, and includes 1,000 current military members.
What Is The Impact of $4.1 Billion Cut to Food Stamps?
According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, the Senate Farm Bill would result in an average cut of $90 per month for nearly 500,000 households nationwide, including 300,000 households in New York.
The average SNAP benefit is $4 a day per person, or $277 per household/month.
These cuts would mean one less week of food on the table each and every month for a typical family.
According to Food Bank of NYC, the current Senate bill would mean 70 million less meals per year in New York City.
The proposed cuts could force families with children to skip meals, ration food, purchase cheaper but less healthy food, and/or choose between food, rent, medicine, and the gas needed to get to work. This makes them less likely to escape poverty, maintain good health, excel in school, or increase their work productivity.
How the Senate Farm Bill Cuts $4 Billion in Food Stamps:
The proposed bill reduces the ability of states to take part in the “Heat and Eat” program. This program allows a state to streamline its bureaucracy and provide additional food stamps to applicants with high heating or cooling costs.
With the program, a state can avoid going through the onerous task of verifying each applicant’s utility bills. It also ensures that families that live in buildings where utilities are included in their rent are still eligible for the additional food stamps.
The proposed bill will end states’ ability to use this streamlined approach and reduce the amount of assistance accessible to hungry children and seniors.
How the Gillibrand Amendment Works:
Senator Gillibrand’s amendment restores the $4.1 billion cuts made to the SNAP program in the Farm Bill by striking that section from the Farm Bill draft.
Offset by lowering the cap on payments made to crop insurance companies from $1.3 billion to $924 million per year, and lowering their profit guarantee from 14% to 12%. Many of these companies are located overseas, in countries such as Bermuda, Australia and Switzerland, and are making huge annual profits.
MYTH #1: THE SNAP PROGRAM IS BAD ECONOMIC POLICY
FACT: According to the USDA, these SNAP dollars have a $1.71 return on investment in the economy and approximately 16 cents goes back to the farmer who grows the produce. Mark Zandi, Chief Economist at Moody’s Analytics says, “Nothing packs a larger economic bang-for-the-buck than the SNAP/food stamp program. For every $1 increase in the program, economic activity ultimately increases by $1.71. People who receive these benefits are financially hard pressed and will spend any aid they receive very quickly. The money also stays in the U.S. economy, paying the salaries of grocery clerks, the truckers who haul the food cross-country, and the farmers who grow the crops. This is a better return on investment than any other government program.”
MYTH #2: THE SNAP PROGRAM IS RIFE WITH FRAUD
FACT: According to USDA, fraud is less than 1 percent, or less than one cent for every dollar.
MYTH #3: GILLIBRAND’S AMENDMENT AFFECTS U.S. FARMERS
FACT: False. The amendment lowers guaranteed profits by the federal government to crop insurance companies, many of which are located overseas.
MYTH #4: THE $4.1 BILLION IN SNAP CUTS DOES NOT REDUCE BENEFITS
Fact: False. According to the CBO this will result in $90 less per month for 500,000 American households in 16 colder climates that use the “Heat and Eat” program (CA, CT, DE, DC, ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, and WI).