More than 1,300 state and local hunger-relief organizations sent a letter to Congress urging members to strengthen and protect programs and policies that shield vulnerable, low-income Americans from hunger. The letter comes as the House and Senate Agriculture Committees prepare to mark up farm bill legislation in May. The letter calls on Congress to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), strengthen The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and maintain charitable giving tax incentive.
"With unemployment hovering around seven percent nationally and millions of families struggling to put food on the table, it is inconceivable that Congress would make cuts to hunger-relief, yet food assistance programs and policies remain at risk of being severely weakened across a range of legislative proposals," said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity.
In 2012, the Senate and House Agriculture Committees approved farm bill legislation that would cut $4.5 billion and $16.5 billion, respectively, from SNAP, the nation's frontline federal nutrition program. Those committees are expected to release draft farm bill legislation next month, and Feeding America is urging committee members to reverse course and protect SNAP from unnecessary cuts.
"We understand the importance of balancing our nation's fiscal house, but SNAP should not be part of those conversations," Aiken continued."SNAP spending will decrease on its own as the economy improves and struggling people get back to work. Furthermore, SNAP is a highly efficient program effectively targeted at the poorest Americans. It is working exactly as designed to respond to increased need in the wake of the recession."
The Congressional Budget Office projects SNAP participation to begin declining in 2015, with both unemployment and SNAP participation returning to near pre-recession levels by 2022. Cuts to SNAP would increase demand on the nation's charitable food system at a time when food banks and other hunger-relief groups are stretched to the breaking point trying to meet existing need.
"Cuts to SNAP would only increase the number of people turning to our member food banks for assistance," Aiken said."I am not aware of any food bank within our network that has seen a decrease in demand. Instead of cutting SNAP, we urge the Agriculture Committees to increase funding for TEFAP to increase the flow of food through the charitable system."
Feeding America is also concerned about proposals to cap the charitable deduction for higher-income taxpayers, which would impact the ability of direct service charities to raise necessary funds.
"The services of non-profits have continued to be in high demand, and our elected officials should support policies that encourage Americans to give more to charity," Aiken said.
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