Earlier today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. Like past House budgets for 2012 and 2013, the plan includes a devastating proposal to convert the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) into a "block grant" program. SNAP continues to provide critical food assistance to struggling families as they confront a slowly recovering economy, and the likely result of the House budget proposal would be that millions of people would lose their SNAP benefits, or see them significantly reduced, at a time of elevated need.
"We are deeply disappointed that the House Budget Committee has again proposed to cut and restructure SNAP in its spending proposal for 2014. With one in six Americans currently struggling to put food on the table, and millions of families still unemployed or scraping by on reduced wages, SNAP and other federal nutrition programs provide a critical lifeline that must be maintained," said Bob Aiken, president and CEO of Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity.
"While proponents of block grants argue that programs are more effective and better suited to local needs when decision-making shifts to the states, in fact states already have considerable flexibility in administering SNAP," Aiken said."The primary consequence of a block grant is eroding the federal commitment that SNAP families are eligible to receive the same level of food assistance regardless of where they live."
Feeding America noted that 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.
"Food banks are already struggling to keep up with tremendous need. Our network saw a 46 percent increase in clients served from 2006 to 2010 as a result of the recession, and I don't know of any food bank that has seen a decrease in demand. Any cuts to SNAP would only increase the number of people turning to local charities for assistance, and over-strapped food banks would not be able to make up the difference," Aiken continued.
Current SNAP benefit levels are already inadequate to last many participants through the month. The typical family of three receives about $290 a month in SNAP benefits, which averages less than $1.50 per person per meal.
"With the majority SNAP benefits redeemed by day 21 of any given month, families are left scrambling to find enough food," Aiken said."The proposal to block grant SNAP would cut food for our most vulnerable families and increase the burden on food banks at a time when demand is already at an all-time high."
Feeding America called on Congress to uphold the long-standing, bipartisan commitment to protect low-income programs during deficit reduction."While we understand the need for our nation to get its fiscal house in order, these proposed cuts are severe and would only lead to an increase in hunger. Congress should maintain its historical commitment to protecting low-income families in past deficit reduction agreements, and work to strengthen funding for the nutrition assistance programs that so many families rely on," Aiken said.
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