The U.S. House Budget Committee passed a resolution last week calling for deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly called food stamps). If these cuts took effect, nearly 1.6 million Georgians who rely on the program will face a greater chance of hunger. That includes children, seniors, people with disabilities, workers and people seeking work.
The planned cuts are twofold:
Require fast-track cuts this year. The budget resolution requires the U.S. Agriculture Committee to identify at least $10 billion in cuts over ten years to programs under its jurisdiction by Oct. 6, 2017. The committee could cut SNAP as the administration proposes.
The president’s proposed budget shifts 25 percent of the cost of SNAP benefits to the states, fundamentally changing the program’s longstanding funding structure and placing a huge burden on state finances. A 25 percent cost shift forces the state to either raise nearly $700 million in taxes to pay for food assistance or cut an already-meager benefit. This cost shift is nearly double the money Georgia directs to its technical college system. And food assistance benefits for Georgians are already extremely low, averaging about $1.42 per person per meal.
Large cuts to food assistance over the long-term. The budget committee’s resolution also gives “significant authority to the states” while envisioning a $150 billion cut to the program over 10 years. The resolution doesn’t say how the program can be cut, but similar reductions proposed in last year’s House budget planned deep cuts to SNAP and its conversion to a block grant system. This change eliminates the flexibility to respond to the needs of qualified people as they arise.
A $150 billion cut would force Georgia to decide to cut or end food assistance to children, seniors, people with disabilities, working parents or others struggling to make ends meet. State leaders will face terrible choices.
Cuts would be painfully steep. If the reductions called for come only from across-the-board benefit cuts, Georgia needs to slash assistance by an average of $40 per person, per month. Georgians’ food assistance benefits now average just $128 per person, per month.
Food stamps provide significant, measurable benefits to children and adults. Children who get food assistance are less likely to have a lower birthweight and to be in fair or poor health compared to low-income children without access to benefits. Adults who received food stamps as young children reported better health and lower rates of metabolic syndrome, a combined measure of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Congress can protect this beneficial assistance and reject any budget that cuts SNAP and threatens this strong record of success.