BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Chairman Conaway Can Settle the Question of Whether His Proposal Would Push People Off SNAP by Releasing It
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway dismisses troubling reports that he’s considering harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), saying they don’t reflect the farm bill that he’s putting together. He can, however, confirm that he’s not pushing for deep SNAP benefit cuts, or changes to eligibility, by releasing the details of his proposal.
Last week, the Chairman reportedly suggested that his SNAP package includes at least one provision that would end eligibility for about 1 million households with nearly 700,000 children. Such a proposal would mostly harm working families that face significant expenses, like costly rent and child care, that can put a healthy diet out of reach. And, other reports suggest, the Chairman may propose additional benefit cuts to vulnerable households and use the savings to pay for vastly expanding SNAP’s bureaucracy to implement an untested work requirement for beneficiaries. Such proposals would threaten the historically bipartisan support for the farm bill, which reauthorizes SNAP.
Nevertheless, Chairman Conaway asserts that he’s not proposing to tighten eligibility. “Not one time did I talk about kicking people off of SNAP,” he said in a March 24 speech. And in that same vein, beginning in 2016 the Chairman held a series of productive hearings on ways to strengthen the program.
As these hearings affirmed, SNAP works. It effectively reduces hunger, alleviates poverty, improves health, and enhances children’s well-being. Policymakers need to move forward in a way that strengthens SNAP, not one that takes food away from struggling families. Hopefully, the Chairman will soon release the text, and a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate, so his proposal can be analyzed, including for its impact on low-income families.