Today, House Republicans held a hearing to examine “skyrocketing fraud” in the food stamp program (i.e. SNAP), despite the fact that fraud and improper payments in the program have plunged to an all-time low. As House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said, “while the need for the SNAP program is at an historic high, fraud within the program is at an all-time low…Given this strong track record, I am concerned that the true purpose of this hearing may be to discredit the entire program in order to justify draconian cuts.”
Food stamps have been key to alleviating poverty during the Great Recession. In 2010, the program kept more than 5 million Americans from falling below the poverty line. Plus, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted today, food stamps reduced the number of children living in extreme poverty — defined as less than $2 per day, before government aid — by half in 2011:
Counting SNAP benefits as income reduces the number of households in extreme poverty in 2011 from 1.46 million to nearly 800,000, the study found. And it reduces the number of children in extreme poverty in 2011 by half — from 2.8 million to 1.4 million…Other studies have also documented SNAP’s powerful poverty-fighting impact. According to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which counts SNAP as income, SNAP kept more than 5 million people out of poverty in 2010.
Food stamps are more critical now than ever, since extreme poverty in the U.S. has doubled in the last 15 years. Overall, the poverty rate in 2010 would have been twice as high as it was were if not for the social safety net.