BEYOND THE NUMBERS
House May Reconsider Farm Bill That Would Cut Food Assistance for Over 2 Million People
The House Agriculture Committee farm bill, which the House rejected on May 18 but likely will vote on again as soon as this evening, would increase food insecurity and hardship. Its changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would cause more than 1 million low-income households with more than 2 million people, particularly low-income working families with children, to lose their benefits altogether or have them reduced.
SNAP is the country’s most effective anti-hunger program, helping 1 in 8 Americans — mostly children, seniors, or people with disabilities — to afford a basic diet. Despite providing modest benefits that average only about $1.40 per person per meal, SNAP combats food insecurity, alleviates poverty, and has long-term positive impacts on health and children’s educational attainment.
The Committee bill, which the House made even worse by adopting harmful amendments during its floor debate in May, would weaken SNAP, cutting benefits by nearly $19 billion and putting many households at greater risk of hardship. The bill breaks with longstanding bipartisan tradition by presenting a package of proposals from Republicans alone that’s unbalanced, untested, and likely unworkable in key areas. In contrast, the bipartisan Senate Agriculture Committee farm bill makes progress in funding job training, modernizing benefit delivery, strengthening program integrity, and supporting healthy eating — without taking food assistance away from low-income households.
One of the House Committee bill’s harmful provisions would threaten food assistance by expanding SNAP’s existing work requirements, including for parents of children as young as 6, older workers, and those struggling to find adequate employment. Those who can’t comply would face harsh sanctions that would cost them their food assistance for 12 or up to 36 months.
Evidence suggests that these sweeping requirements would likely do more harm than good, potentially increasing hunger and poverty, while failing to boost employment or increase earnings. And the proposal would force states to develop large new bureaucracies to track millions of SNAP recipients, increasing administrative burdens and the risk of errors that could leave eligible individuals without their food assistance.
The bill would also take food away from many working households, remove critical state flexibilities, and open the door for states to turn SNAP operations over to for-profit companies. Despite some modest benefit enhancements, the bill overall would harm vulnerable, low-income Americans, including many families with children, older individuals, and people with disabilities.
Instead of reconsidering this flawed, unfixable bill, the House needs to pursue a bill that reflects a shared commitment to strengthen SNAP and ensures that households that struggle to put food on the table get the help they need.