A new proposal passed in the U.S. House Agriculture Committee on Thursday that would potentially eliminate assistance for 3 million people who would have been on government assistance next year. Some of the bereft include U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. The new cuts are a part of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012. The committee suggested that the funding should be cut for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, by $16 million over the next 10 years.
So how would the cuts save any money? Most of the savings would come from eliminating certain leniencies for categorical eligibility, which is the practice of waiving an asset test if the recipients quality for welfare programs like TANF. About half of current SNAP recipients started using benefits because they already received non-cash benefits from the government, such as bus fare and child care benefits. More than 40 states today use categorical eligibility to automatically give out food stamps.
The new proposal in the House would make it so that families who make less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line, make less than $2,000 in resources and meet other federal eligibility standards would be the only ones to receive food stamps. These tightened restrictions would shave down about 4 percent, essentially between 2 and 3 million people left without food stamps.
What do the sponsors of these cuts have to say?
“If you need food stamps, you should meet the criteria,” Representative Bob Goodlatte (R – Virg.) said last Wednesday.
Other legislators speaking to the Huffington Post said that they want to close loopholes, not let people go hungry, but what are these loopholes? Are they really loopholes or just casualties in a war against government assistance for some of America’s poorest citizens?
“I want poor people to have food,” said Representative Reid Ribble (R-Wis.). “I want children to eat as well.”
However, advocates are showing that the new cuts would affect children the most, and these changes will cut of needy families who are in danger of falling far below the federal poverty line. Families which own a moderately priced car or have more than $2,000 in savings will also no longer qualify. What does that mean for working men and women who are poor but need a car for work? It means that they will have to probably have to sell their car.
“On average, the families above that limit who qualify for SNAP as a result of categorical eligibility have combined child care and rent costs that exceed half of their wages,” Rosenbaum and Dean wrote. “The $100 per month in SNAP benefits that they receive covers about one-fifth of their monthly food budget.”
Another part of the bill will require that state agencies verify applicants’ immigration status before passing out any benefits. The new cuts are not passed as of yet, but they will make their way through the House and Senate. Hopefully, advocacy groups and petition groups will be able to stop these restrictions on America’s needy children and families.
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