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House Farm Bill, Which May Face Another Vote, Even Worse Due to Recent Amendments

May 18, 2018 at 4:30 PM

The partisan farm bill that the House rejected today would increase food insecurity and hardship for low-income families and make SNAP harder to administer. The fight over the bill isn’t over, however, because House Republicans can call for another vote on it. And, in its current form, this bill would be even more harmful than the deeply flawed bill that came to the floor, which included more than $17 billion in SNAP benefit cuts that would have shrunk or eliminated benefits for 1 million households with more than 2 million people.  That’s because the House adopted amendments that:

  • Make the bill’s work requirements, which would take away food from needy individuals, even harsher and more unworkable. The House adopted an amendment that would make it even harder for states to get federal waivers for high-unemployment areas from the current three-month time limit on benefits for many unemployed participants and waivers from the bill’s new work requirements, which would take effect in 2021. As a result, 600,000 more people would lose SNAP in 2021 than under the original bill.  The amendment also cuts, from 15 to 12 percent, the share of adults subject to the work requirements that states could exempt.  These and other changes to the work provisions increased the bill’s SNAP benefit cuts by $4.9 billion.
  • Cut the bill’s new funding for job training, which already was grossly inadequate. The original bill included less than $30 per month per individual who’d need to engage in an employment program to meet the new work requirements — a fraction of what’s needed to provide high-quality training for in-demand jobs. The House adopted an amendment to cut that funding by $350 million over ten years by requiring states to return training funds to the federal government that they couldn’t spend in a single year. This would limit states’ flexibility to build programs that work for their participants.
  • Open the door for states to give key SNAP functions to for-profit companies. It may be appropriate to give some SNAP operational functions to private contractors, such as computer systems or debit card issuance. But the government must retain others, like determining eligibility, to implement program rules effectively and serve needy clients without influence from private interests and profit motives. The amended House farm bill, however, would let states contract with private companies to perform these functions. History shows that that could prove disastrous: when Texas and Indiana privatized their SNAP operations in the early 2000s, thousands of low-income people were prevented from applying or received misinformation and many others received incorrect SNAP benefit amounts. The contractors also released SNAP participants’ private information, compromising their security. None of the promised performance improvements or cost savings materialized.
  • Deny food assistance to persons with certain criminal convictions who were released from prison and are working to reintegrate into society. Current law denies SNAP to individuals previously found guilty of a violent crime if, after their release from prison, they violate the terms of their release. The amended House farm bill would deny food assistance to all individuals with convictions for certain violent crimes even if they’re working hard to avoid recidivism and become productive members of their communities. This would impede their rehabilitation and reentry into society, while threatening their and their families’ food security.

To keep SNAP strong, the House should craft a bipartisan bill that reflects a shared commitment to providing needed help to households that struggle to put food on the table. In the Senate, Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow have indicated that they plan to develop their farm bill, including its SNAP provisions, in a bipartisan manner.


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