Friday Jun 22, 201212:21 AM GMT
Bid to restore food stamp cuts fails in Senate
Fri Jun 22, 2012 12:19AM
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In order to help pay for a series of high-priority spending bills in 2010, congressional Democrats raided future funding for food stamps, promising to put the money back before any cuts took effect.


Now that the cuts are around the corner, Democrats aren't talking about replacing the money. Instead, they're talking about more cuts. The big farm bill that passed the Senate on Thursday will reduce the deficit by $23.6 billion. Part of the savings comes from cutting an additional $4.5 billion from food stamps.


Democratic support for cutting food stamps -- formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP -- is a measure of how attitudes toward safety-net spending have changed over the past few years in Washington. It's also representative of how repeated Republican attacks on the program, in Congress and during the presidential campaign, have made it more vulnerable to cuts as its cost continues to increase.


With the average household receiving $287 per month, participation in the SNAP program has increased 70 percent since 2007, but is expected to level off in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office. States can make their own rules, but the minimum standard requires recipient households to have no more than $2,000 in assets, and incomes no greater than 130 percent of the federal poverty line, which is currently $23,050 per year for a family of four.


Even without the cuts in the farm bill, SNAP beneficiaries will see less money come in, starting fall 2013. The Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger advocacy group, estimated that a family of four will receive $16 less per month starting in November 2013. (Thanks to food price inflation, the reduction is less severe than once expected -- in 2010, FRAC estimated benefits would shrink $59 a month).


The $4.5 billion cut in the farm bill is similar to a provision from a Republican proposal in the House. That measure targeted a program known as "Heat and Eat," which Republicans say is a loophole. "Heat and Eat" states can send nominal utility assistance checks as low as $1 to needy households, which in turn automatically qualifies them for a boosted utility allowance under SNAP. Fewer states would participate in "Heat and Eat" under the farm bill, because it will require them to send utility assistance checks worth at least $10 for the recipient household to get a SNAP boost. Huffington Post




According to the Congressional Budget Office, "Heat and Eat" will be able to continue in some states, but nearly 500,000 households a year will see their food stamps diminish by about $90 a month. Huffington Post


The program has swelled from 28 million to 46 million participants and its costs have doubled in the past four years. The recession and slow recovery have increased the number of people unemployed over the same period from 8 million to 12 million.


The House has proposed $33 billion in cuts over a ten-year window in its version of the farm bill, and outside of that, proposed $134 billion in additional cuts in its budget resolution.


Egregious fraud happens so infrequently that stronger enforcement being proposed for SNAP isn't even expected to result in meaningful savings to taxpayers, and it wasn't scored by the Congressional Budget Office, notes Stacy Dean, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Washington Post


Of the $64 billion food stamp dollars that were redeemed in 2010 -- the most recent year for which data are available -- .012% moved through farmers markets, up from .008% of the $50 billion in food stamps that were redeemed in 2009, according to the Farmers Market Coalition. LA Times




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