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Saturday, April 19, 2014

California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Other Senators Urge Negotiators to Reject Cuts to Food Stamps

House bill slashes $40 billion in food stamps—drastic cuts would eliminate free school meals for 280,000 children, remove food aid for millions of families

October 27, 2013 - Washington – Ahead of the first public meeting of the Senate and House 2013 Farm Bill conference committee members on Wednesday, a coalition of 39 Senators urged the conferees to fight against harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Senators also urged the negotiators to reject all eligibility changes that would prevent millions of children, seniors, and families facing a constant struggle against hunger from accessing nutritious food and hundreds of thousands of low-income children from accessing free school meals.

The 2013 Farm Bill conference committee members are working on a compromise between the two different pieces of legislation passed by the Senate and House earlier this year. In June, the Senate passed a Farm Bill which included $4.5 billion in cuts to the SNAP program while the House passed legislation last month with even steeper cuts, slashing $40 billion over 10 years.

The 39 Senators wrote in a letter to Farm Bill Conference Committee Members, “While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance. The eligibility changes also will mean an additional 280,000 children would lose free school meals because children in SNAP households are automatically eligible for school meals. Changes would also increase administrative costs by requiring states to re-determine eligibility for SNAP, even if a household was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs… SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the world; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. Please consider the needs of these struggling families, children, and senior citizens as you negotiate the final Farm Bill and the future of the SNAP program.”

The letter was signed by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Tim Johnson (D-SD).

Full text of the Senators’ letter is below:

Dear Farm Bill Conferees,

We are writing to express our support for preventing harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Farm Bill. SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. SNAP provides essential nutrition benefits to working families, children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals in every state and town in our country. Every dollar in new SNAP benefits generates up to $1.79 in economic activity, of which approximately 16 cents goes back to the farmers.

While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance. The eligibility changes also will mean an additional 280,000 children would lose free school meals because children in SNAP households are automatically eligible for school meals. Changes would also increase administrative costs by requiring states to re-determine eligibility for SNAP, even if a household was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs.

SNAP plays a critical role at a stressful time in the life of families. It allows struggling families to put groceries on their tables when they face financial troubles. Benefits average less than $1.50 per individual, per meal, and within this limited budget they struggle to provide healthy, nutritious meals for themselves and their family. In fact half of SNAP participants entering the program are enrolled for 10 months or less.

Researchers estimate that half of all American children will receive SNAP at some point during childhood, and half of all adults will do so at some point between the ages of 20 and 65 years. Furthermore, SNAP recipients are diverse with regards to race-ethnicity, many have earned income, and the vast majority of SNAP households do not receive cash welfare benefits.

SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the world; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. Please consider the needs of these struggling families, children, and senior citizens as you negotiate the final Farm Bill and the future of the SNAP program.

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