Shortly before Congress adjourned for its August recess, House Republican leaders disclosed that they plan to move a bill in early September that doubles — to $40 billion over 10 years — their proposed cuts to SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) and immediately cuts two to four million more low-income individuals from the program.
The new cuts come primarily from eliminating waivers that states can use, during periods of high unemployment, to ease the severity of a harsh rule that limits SNAP to three months of benefits out of every three years for people aged 18 to 50 who aren’t raising minor children and are unemployed, regardless of how hard they are looking for work. Under their proposal, if such individuals can’t find at least a half-time job, they will summarily be thrown off the program after three months — irrespective of local unemployment rate — as of this June, 8.1% in Connecticut.
Most of those affected are among the poorest people. SNAP program data show their average income is just 22% of the poverty line, about $2,500 a year for a single individual. On average they will receive about $160 a month in SNAP benefits in fiscal year 2014. They are a diverse group. More than 40% are women. One-third are more than age 40. About 40% live in urban areas, 40% in suburban areas, and 20% in rural areas.
As a result of the proposed cuts, many of these individuals would fall deeper into destitution. Some would likely experience hunger as well as homelessness; money spent on food isn’t available to pay the rent, and with income this low, it can be very difficult to do both.
Cuts to food stamps plus cuts to childhood nutrition program such as WIC and School Lunches affect “the cities” and the “suburbs” — exacerbating the food crisis. The Connecticut Food Bank Mobile Pantry delivers 36 tons of food every day in Connecticut to 650 locations in Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London and Windham counties. Here the child food insecurity rate is 19.2%, or 99,670 children. In the same areas, 48% of the food-insecure do not qualify for food stamps, so no “safety net” other than pantries and feeding programs for just the basics needed to survive. Talk to the Ridgefield Food Pantry. Demand is high.
What is going on here? For sure, Republicans in the House of Representatives have abandoned, one might even say punished, those needing help to get through tough times. Their actions force children to go to school with empty stomachs and elderly to worry about their next meal. Their logic is flawed and their politics mean.
Call a Republican member of the U.S. House and tell them that food security is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of national security and national conscience.
Susan D. Cocco is the chairman of Ridgefield Democrats.