Action to Protect Food Assistance (#HandsOffSNAP)

A Congressional Committee has twisted the Farm Bill, H.R. 2, into a cruel and punitive bill that would take food assistance away from children, families, people with disabilities, older workers, low-wage workers, and those unable to find jobs.

The Farm Bill traditionally is a bipartisan effort every 5 years, but in this case not a single Democrat on the committee voted for it. This version pushed by Republicans on the House Agricultural Committee includes wide cuts and a reorganization of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps). The Farm Bill is up for a vote in the House on May 14, 2018 – so please take the easy actions to write your Congressperson NOW! Act now with the Budget and Tax Center action, or with MomsRising action.  See more on actions at the end of the article.

Photo Credit: Michael Eisenberg

If Republicans in Congress have their way, millions of people who get food aid through SNAP will have to find a job or attend job training classes for about 20 hours each week, or lose their benefits. There are so many good reasons why people on the SNAP program can’t work, but another problem is we just don’t have the jobs or training programs in too many parts of NC.

In fact, “in 87 counties [in NC], there are more jobless workers than there are opportunities,” NC Justice Center, 2/26/18.  According to this article,

Food assistance is provided to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities via SNAP. SNAP is heavily focused on the poor. 92 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes at or below the poverty line, and 56 percent go to households at or below half of the poverty line (about $10,390 for a family of three in 2018).  Families with the greatest need receive the largest benefits. In a typical month in 2017, SNAP helped more than 40 million low-income Americans afford a nutritionally adequate diet. SNAP reached 1,365,000 North Carolina residents , or 13% of the state population (1 in 7)* in Fiscal Year 2017 alone.

According to Alexandra Sirota, Director of the NC Budget and Tax Center, “[The] Farm Bill would increase hunger, further burden for struggling North Carolinians by cutting food assistance.”

This bill is seen as one of many cruel attacks on the poor. It comes “only 4 months after a tax cut of 1.9 trillion dollars over ten years which will overwhelmingly benefit profitable large corporations and the wealthiest 1% and simultaneous with Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal to increase rent in public housing by up to 300%, this can only be seen as part of a massive transfer of wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest Americans.”

Beth Messersmith, Senior NC Campaign Director of Moms Rising, said “It would make it harder for hungry families to access the food they need because it imposes unnecessary, harmful and overly restrictive work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps families afford groceries when they’re going through hard times. This devastating plan would lead to millions of people losing access to the program, forcing them to make impossible decisions between paying their rent and feeding their kids. Work requirements won’t strengthen families or boost our economy – they will only leave hungry children and families to get hungrier. We urge every member of Congress to vote ‘no’ on the House Republican farm bill!”

Action: there are few easy online actions to take – with NCJC, and MomsRising, see below. Spread the word, share this article, and posts about the event on fb, twitter, etc. When you do share, please use the hashtag #HandsOffSnap.

More information on Farm Bill and SNAP:

1. BTC Campaign: Take action at https://ncjustice.salsalabs.org/farmbill2018/index.html

Statement from BTC on Farm Bill:  Farm Bill would increase hunger, further burden for struggling North Carolinians by cutting food assistance at
http://www.ncjustice.org/?q=budget-and-tax/statement-alexandra-sirota-farm-bill-would-increase-hunger-further-burden-struggling

2. Moms Rising campaign: Take action at https://action.momsrising.org/sign/FarmBill_2018/?source=takeaction

3. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (national organization):

“[T]he plan includes sweeping, aggressive new work requirements that would likely prove unworkable and do substantially more harm than good, fueling increases in hunger and poverty. These provisions would force states to develop large new bureaucracies, but research suggests that these requirements would do little to increase employment.This expensive and risky approach runs counter to evidence-based policy making”.

“Moreover, experience suggests that the bill’s proposed work requirements would leave substantial numbers of low-income people who have various barriers to employment — such as very limited skills or mental health issues like depression — with neither earnings nor food assistance.”

More on the farm bill, from Wikipedia. The first farm bill, known as the Agriculture Adjustment Act (AAA), was passed by Congress in 1933 as a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. In 1938, Congress created a more permanent farm bill (the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938) with a built-in requirement to update it every five years.

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