The average value of federal food aid will fall to $1.40 per person per meal in November, as a Recovery Act provision expires, but Republicans are already working to impose a further $21 billion in cuts to the program. That’s the upshot of two recent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports on the future of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).
SNAP is authorized through the farm bill, the Senate version of which was passed by the Agriculture Committee Tuesday afternoon. With their counterparts in the GOP-controlled House set to mark up their own farm bill tomorrow – complete with those nearly $21 billion in cuts to SNAP – the Ag Committee senators agreed to $4.1 billion in SNAP cuts on a 15-5 vote.
But while the Senate bill’s cuts to SNAP and increases to crop insurance subsidies represent misplaced priorities, the forthcoming bill from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) makes the Senate’s food aid cuts look piddling. As CBPP explained this week, Lucas’s bill would boot nearly 2 million Americans off SNAP – and it targets the food aid program for more than half of its total cuts:
The proposed legislation would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) by almost $21 billion over the next decade, eliminating food assistance to nearly 2 million low-income people, mostly working families with children and senior citizens. The proposal reduces total farm bill spending by an estimated $39.7 billion over ten years, so more than half of its cuts come from SNAP.
Lucas’ bill achieves these cuts primarily by repealing a provision of SNAP that allows states to include citizens whose disposable income (after child care expenses, for example) falls below the poverty line, even if their gross incomes are slightly above the SNAP cutoff, or 130 percent of the poverty line. In other words, it targets millions of working poor and elderly who rely on federal food aid and returns them to an actuarial trap of ineligibility.
This year’s proposed bill cuts SNAP even more heavily than the one Lucas’s committee approved in 2012. While Rep. Steve King (R-IA) recently said the proposed cuts would go unnoticed spread over a decade, the struggling Rhode Islanders profiled in March by The Washington Post would likely disagree.
Regardless of the magnitude, the rationale behind cutting food aid has never made good sense. The program’s expenditures ebb and flow along with the overall poverty rate itself and remain elevated because economic growth remains too slow nearly four years after the official end of the Great Recession. If Republicans want to greatly reduce SNAP expenditures in a way recipients won’t notice, the answer is economic growth.