When the U.S. House returns from its recess in a few weeks, representatives are expected to consider a bill that slashes $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. A cut that size eliminates benefits for up to four million people in the U.S. In Georgia, about 168,000 people are at risk of losing their SNAP benefits under the proposal.
The cuts proposed by the House are largely achieved by eliminating waivers that states can use to continue to help low-income adults working less than 20 hours per week put food on the table when unemployment spikes. Without the waivers, these individuals will not be allowed to receive SNAP benefits for more than three months every three years, no matter how diligent their job search is. More than 45 states with Democratic and Republican governors– including Georgia –requested these waivers this fiscal year.
National statistics indicate the 168,000 Georgians who stand to lose benefits under the proposal are extremely poor. They are more likely than other SNAP participants to lack basic job skills, including reading, writing and basic mathematics. Their average gross income is far below the poverty line, about $2,500 per year.
In addition to the cuts under the pending House plan, Georgia is still not required to provide every adult receiving SNAP and working less than 20 hours a week with job training, adult education or skills development programs. In an economy that increasingly values high-skilled labor, taking SNAP benefits away from low-income, low-skilled adults without providing them the means to increase their income is akin to telling hungry people without shoes to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”
The House is also expected to include a measure that gives states an incentive to end SNAP benefits for low-income, unemployed adults and their children. This draconian measure, known as the Southerland Amendment, allows states to keep half of the “savings” they generate by taking SNAP benefits away from these families. States could then use that money for anything, including passing new tax cuts or corporate subsidies.
As reported in a our new fact sheet, the $40 billion in cuts proposed by the House will come on top of a benefit cut for all families receiving SNAP benefits already set to take place November 1. For families of three, this cut will be about $29 per month, bringing their average SNAP benefits down to about $1.40 per person per meal from about $1.50.
The cuts to SNAP proposed by the House are harsh. Imposing them in a time of historically high unemployment is severe. Taking away food assistance from millions of people should not be on the to-do list of U.S. representatives.