October 28, 2013

Ahead of First Public Meeting of Farm Bill Conference Committee, Gillibrand Leads Coalition of More Than One-Third of Senate Colleagues Urging Congressional Negotiators to Reject Cuts to Food Stamps for Millions of Children, Seniors, Food Insecure Families

House Bill Slashes $40 Billion in Food Stamps - Drastic Cuts Would Eliminate Free School Meals for 280,000 Children, Remove Food Aid for Millions of Families

Washington, DC – Ahead of the first public meeting of the Senate and House 2013 Farm Bill conference committee members on Wednesday, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today led a coalition of 38 of her Senate colleagues urging the conferees to fight against harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Senators also urged the negotiators to reject all eligibility changes that would prevent millions of children, seniors, and families facing a constant struggle against hunger from accessing nutritious food and hundreds of thousands of low-income children from accessing free school meals. The 2013 Farm Bill conference committee members are working on a compromise between the two different pieces of legislation passed by the Senate and House earlier this year. In June, the Senate passed a Farm Bill which included $4.5 billion in cuts to the SNAP program while the House passed legislation last month with even steeper cuts, slashing $40 billion over 10 years.

The 39 Senators wrote in a letter to Farm Bill Conference Committee Members, “While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance.  The eligibility changes also will mean an additional 280,000 children would lose free school meals because children in SNAP households are automatically eligible for school meals. Changes would also increase administrative costs by requiring states to re-determine eligibility for SNAP, even if a household was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs… SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the world; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. Please consider the needs of these struggling families, children, and senior citizens as you negotiate the final Farm Bill and the future of the SNAP program.

The letter was signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Udall (D-CO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Angus King (I-ME), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Tim Johnson (D-SD).

“Families who are living in poverty – hungry children, seniors, troops and veterans who are just trying to figure out how to keep the lights on and put food on the table – did not spend this nation into debt, and we should not be trying to balance the budget on their backs,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “They deserve better. Millions more won’t be able to put food on the table if draconian cuts to food stamps become law. I stand with my Senate colleagues urging committee members to reject harmful cuts for the most vulnerable.”

Senator Gillibrand has led the fight in the U.S. Senate to restore cuts to the SNAP program. In May, the Senator led a coalition of one-third of her Senate colleagues pushing the Senate Agriculture Committee to fully fund the nation’s food stamp program and restore the proposed cuts by reducing government subsidies to highly profitable crop insurance companies and reducing their federally guaranteed profits from 14 percent to 12 percent. Senator Gillibrand also re-introduced her amendment to the Farm Bill this year to restore the Senate cuts, as she did last year when the bill was on the Senate floor.

 

Full text of the Senators’ letter is below: 

 

Dear Farm Bill Conferees,

 

We are writing to express our support for preventing harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Farm Bill. SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. SNAP provides essential nutrition benefits to working families, children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals in every state and town in our country. Every dollar in new SNAP benefits generates up to $1.79 in economic activity, of which approximately 16 cents goes back to the farmers.

 

While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance.  The eligibility changes also will mean an additional 280,000 children would lose free school meals because children in SNAP households are automatically eligible for school meals. Changes would also increase administrative costs by requiring states to re-determine eligibility for SNAP, even if a household was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs.

 

SNAP plays a critical role at a stressful time in the life of families. It allows struggling families to put groceries on their tables when they face financial troubles. Benefits average less than $1.50 per individual, per meal, and within this limited budget they struggle to provide healthy, nutritious meals for themselves and their family. In fact half of SNAP participants entering the program are enrolled for 10 months or less.

 

Researchers estimate that half of all American children will receive SNAP at some point during childhood, and half of all adults will do so at some point between the ages of 20 and 65 years.  Furthermore, SNAP recipients are diverse with regards to race-ethnicity, many have earned income, and the vast majority of SNAP households do not receive cash welfare benefits.

  

SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the world; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. Please consider the needs of these struggling families, children, and senior citizens as you negotiate the final Farm Bill and the future of the SNAP program.