The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would cut funding for food stamps by $40 billion over the next ten years.
Democrats, as well as some moderate Republicans, have promised to block the measure in order to keep the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) up and running. Regardless of what happens in Congress, some states have already taken action and made cuts to their own food stamp programs, eliminating benefits for many residents no matter what the House's final decision.
Currently, 47 million Americans receive food stamps. That's one-sixth of the country, and almost half of them are children. Two thirds of the adults are women.
It wasn't always this way. The number of people on food stamps has doubled in the past decade, mostly because of the recession. Republicans counter that at a time when the economy is improving and unemployment is going down, the number of people on food stamps should also be reduced, and they're willing to force people off the program if they have to.
Some control measures proposed by Republicans include work requirements, as well as rolling back income requirements and allowable assets. During the recent economic crisis, these limits were raised to allow more people to receive food stamps, and under the proposed legislation, they would return to former levels to exempt more people.
During a PBS interview, Wall Street Journal reporter Damian Paletta pointed out that "you could have $10,000 in the bank that you are saving for your kid's college education and still qualify for food stamps if you’re not making a lot of income. Some Republicans want to roll that back saying if you have money saved you should use that money for food and things like that right now."
In a further attempt to get people to go back to work, the bill would also restrict people who are part of other welfare programs from automatically being eligible for food stamps.
How will the cuts affect Americans? Newark Mayor Cory Booker made headlines last year when he started the SNAP challenge, during which he ate on $4.50 a day, the average amount that an American receives on food stamps. The move inspired many more politicians and people in the food world to do the same; last week Panera's CEO joined the list.
While SNAP is intended to be a supplement to other income, for some it is all they have to live on. How cuts to the program will affect the general public will remain to be seen, but on that small amount, a little reduction will go a long way.
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Image: Robert Neff