The House of Representatives’ latest version of the farm bill — crafted as a “compromise” between House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) — would cut $35 billion in spending, including $16.5 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program — known as SNAP or, informally, food stamps.
45 percent of the proposed cuts in the bill come from SNAP, mostly through eliminating what is known as “categorical eligibility.” Categorical eligibility kicks in when a family’s assets (such as a car) push it barely above the line to qualify for assistance, but it is still living on poverty-level disposable income. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities projects that the cuts will kick between two and three million people off of food assistance:
The bill would terminate SNAP eligibility to several million people. By eliminating categorical eligibility, which over 40 states have adopted, the bill would cut 2 to 3 million low-income people off food assistance.
Several hundred thousand low-income children would lose access to free school meals. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 280,000 children in low-income families whose eligibility for free school meals is tied to their receipt of SNAP would lose free meals when their families lost SNAP benefits.
Some working families would lose access to SNAP because they own a modest car, which they often need to commute to their jobs. Eliminating categorical eligibility would cause some low-income working households to lose benefits simply because of the value of a modest car they own. These families would be forced to choose between owning a reliable car and receiving food assistance to help feed their families.
In 2010, only 1.5 percent of SNAP recipients qualified under the categorical eligibility. While Republicans have done their best to frame food assistance as wasteful spending, it is not at all — at its very highest, the program was only .52 percent of the United States’ GDP. Plus, accessibility of food stamps affects peoples’ lives. Food stamps kept five million people out of poverty in 2010, and the program reduced the number of children living in extreme poverty by half.