Today, billions of dollars of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will go into effect. They are the result of the expiration of a temporary increase in funding for SNAP that went into effect as part of the stimulus package in 2009. The expanded SNAP budget was set to automatically expire on November 1. Thanks to Congressional inaction, the cuts went into effect and SNAP will lose $5 billion over the next year.
These cuts will have a major impact on Texans. Almost 4 million Texans are enrolled in SNAP, which is 15% of the population. These latest cuts will reduce the SNAP budget by $411 million, which will affect over 670,000 elderly or disabled, and more than 2.3 million children.
Read about why the cuts were allowed to go into effect, and what Texas Congressmen had to say about it after the jump.Cuts to food stamp benefits will have a substantial impact on millions of families. According to the Washington Post, a family of 4 will lose $36 per month, while a family of 3 will lose $29 per month. When families often spend less than $2 per meal, these small losses go a long way. For example, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reported that “the cut is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a family of three.”
Perhaps one reason why these automatic cuts have not received a great deal of attention is because Congress is gearing up for an even bigger battle over food stamps. In September, the House voted to cut $40 billion from the SNAP program in their farm bill, which would affect 38 million people. The Senate's farm bill only cuts $4 billion, which is still a lot, but preferable to the House bill. Debate over how to reconcile the two farm bills escalated this week, shifting focus away from the automatic SNAP cuts.
However, a couple Texas Congressmen spoke up against the SNAP budget cuts that will leave families hungry. Congressmen Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth) and Gene Green (D-Houston) co-sponsored HR 3353, which would reinstate the additional funding SNAP benefits.
Rep. Veasey released this statement, explaining his support of the bill:
“As Members of Congress, we have the responsibility and obligation to pass reforms to protect the food security of every American. This is why I signed on to H.R. 3353, which will offer a one year extension of the 13% increase of SNAP benefits through FY 2014. It is time for House Republicans to start helping – not hurting – millions of Americans who are striving to get back on their feet by joining to pass this bill and to pass a responsible budget ending unnecessary cuts to lifeline programs for millions of Americans.”
Rep. Green expressed concern about how the cuts would affect Harris county, which would see a $68.5 million loss of benefits over the next year (equivalent to 26.8 million meals):
“Sixty-five percent of Harris County SNAP recipients are children or seniors. I am extremely concerned that this substantial reduction will leave many of them unsure of how they will put food on the table and aggravate the problem of hunger and malnutrition in our nation.”
HR 3353 was introduced on Monday, but as of now remains in committee. It remains to be seen what will happen with both this bill and the farm bill–we can only hope there aren't more cuts on the way.