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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Congressional negotiators announced on Monday that they’d reached a deal on a farm bill that saves $24 billion over the next decade and includes an $8 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – the program responsible for providing food stamps to millions of Americans nationwide.

“Today’s bipartisan agreement puts us on the verge of enacting a five-year farm bill that saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety net, and helps farmers and businesses create jobs,” head of the Senate Agriculture Committee Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said.

Over the summer, tensions mounted as the Democratic-controlled Senate passed legislation that would have cut the food stamp program by $4.1 billion over 10 years, while the GOP-controlled House introduced a nearly-five-times-greater $20 billion cut over the same time period.

The House is expected to vote on and advance the bipartisan deal, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) calling the bill a “step in the right direction.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the bill’s new provisions “will reduce the deficit and cut waste and fraud, all while protecting hungry children and families.” He and others also say that the new energy-assistance provision finally closes a SNAP loophole Congress never intended for – one that some argue increases welfare fraud. 

The proposed bill raises the amount to qualify for additional SNAP benefits from $1 in federal heating assistance to a minimum of $20, closing what has been called the “Heat and Eat” loophole. This will cut benefits for approximately 850,000 households by an average of $90 a month.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill sometime next week, but Democrats seem more split over their support for the compromise.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), and a member of the farm bill conference committee, says the Senate needs to “concentrate” on passing the “sound, balanced, bipartisan bill.”

Some of his colleagues, however, feel that the yearly $800 million food stamp cuts are just too steep. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) blasted the cuts and accused the negotiators of “trying to ram this thing through before anyone has a chance to read it.”

The bill also includes $200 million in funding for 10 states to begin job-training pilot programs and an additional $205 million in increased assistance for food banks.

AFP Photo/Scott Olson

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  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    I will guarantee that a significant number of those families also do their shopping at military commissaries around the United States. So that means our families in uniform will have to make decisions about buying Cheerios, or the store-brand “white box” knock-off. They make the decision between buying the 24 pack of hot dogs, or the 10 pack. Luckily many of their children are eligible for supplemental nutrition programs (i.e. free or reduced price breakfast and lunch) at their schools! But, remember, Republicans LOVE our people in Uniform. That is why Paul Ryan made sure there was a reduction in Military Retirement pay, too!

  • daniel bostdorf

    We need to change our complete view of how we implement social welfare safety net programs. Today—it is a giant mishmash of programs that explodes the budget. The solution to all of our issues of poverty is a concept developed way back in 1967: guaranteed annual income based upon federal poverty levels. Take all the money involved in these various programs, and put it into one program that guarantees annual ibcome. No more food stamps, no more housing voucher, no more of this madness. Citizens have access to the middle class and become taxpayers.

    Now—food stamps..

    It is simply immoral what the GOP and the sypathizers/appeasers are doing.

    Here are the facts:

    The November benefit cut will reduce, by millions of dollars in every
    state, the flow of money that not only would help families afford to
    eat, but also would inject money into the economy. Studies show that in
    a distressed economy, every dollar of SNAP benefits creates at least
    about $1.70 in economic activity, as SNAP recipients spend their
    benefits on food quickly. For example, California and Texas will each
    lose over $400 million in SNAP benefits that would have helped their
    residents eat in 2014; the potential economic impact is even
    greater. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 10/24/13]

    So–lets take food out of mouths of the poor and near poor. But instead, spend billions on wall street and bank bailouts. Let’s build 24 more apache helicopters for 8 billion dollars….

    Immoral priorities by an immoral House controlled by the GOP.

  • browninghipower

    Gee, I thought the Dems were in the majority. But they seem to suffer from battered wives syndrome. They cower; they give in; they throw the Liberals under the bus; they’ll discuss Ryan’s budget with seriousness, but ignore a fully thought-out budget from the House Progressive Caucus as if it were written in crayon; they hail bipartisanship when they give away the store, ie the poor and working folk; they are either heartless bastards or spineless cowards….and it’s getting to the point where I no longer care. They make me want to puke.

    • Sand_Cat

      Wow! Did you really hit the nail on the head! Even when the Dems controlled both houses of Congress numerically, they never really “controlled” the Senate, or this country would be a much better place.
      When will the Dems learn?

      • Mark Forsyth

        I’m beginning to think it’s a lost cause with this crew.Time to have a new crop of real people doing the work of the people for the good of the people

  • Lynda Groom

    The sure fire way to reduce food stamp expenses is to get to work on a JOBS bills. With better employment numbers the problem fixes itself. Apparently that is too subtle for our wonderful Congress to grasp.

  • centerroad

    Those damned and not so damned externalities. The rise of food stamps and programs like them have made the labor force less likely to organize and unionize for better wages. They now supplement their incomes through gov’t programs, much easier than walking the picket line.

    If we are not going to pass national liveable wage legislation, then we can either pay those wages through gov’t social programs, or cut the programs and make people organize for better wages.

    Obviously, the gov’t social programs are the last resort, and the most dysfunctional to our economy, only causing corporations to further use the gov’t as a wage payer.

  • Robert Roberto

    Many people pay cash for their food and you don’t hear them complaining like those on SNAP.