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Setting the Record Straight on SNAP, Part 10: Cantor’s Misleading Defense of the House SNAP Bill

House Majority Leader Cantor has responded to some of our criticisms, as well as those of faith leaders, service providers, and policymakers, on the new House Republican proposal to cut nearly 4 million people off SNAP in 2014, which the House will vote on later today.  His response, like earlier statements from House leaders, misrepresents the House bill.

Let’s look at two examples from Rep. Cantor’s defense of the provision from Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) that lets states end benefits for people who aren’t working or enrolled in job training, even if the state doesn’t offer them a job training slot.

First, Cantor argues, the provision wouldn’t harm those willing to work because “there is more than enough federal funding already for job training programs which SNAP recipients can enroll in to fulfill the work requirements.”

In fact, there is a large shortage of slots for the substantial number of unemployed workers who are seeking job training.  Existing employment and training programs simply cannot absorb large numbers of new participants.

Federal funding for adult job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) has been cut by roughly one-third since 2001 in inflation-adjusted dollars, even before the deeper cuts that sequestration has imposed.  At least 48 states have waiting lists for WIA-funded services for very low-skilled adults lacking basic education, and the share of low‐income people who receive intensive job training services through WIA has fallen substantially in recent years.

In addition, much of the non-SNAP federal funding for job training goes to targeted populations, like people with disabilities or dislocated workers, many of whom do not qualify for SNAP.  Finally, most people who receive intensive job training services through WIA are not low-income adults.  WIA has no income eligibility limits, and its incentives actually discourage programs from serving the most disadvantaged workers.

Second, Cantor defends a feature of the Southerland provision that encourages states to cut unemployed people off SNAP by giving them large cash payments for cutting their SNAP caseloads — regardless of whether the states end SNAP for jobless workers without offering them a real work opportunity or providing training that leads to better jobs.

“The critics,” Cantor said, “can’t have it both ways — they can’t complain that the House bill doesn’t provide additional resources for state activities to ensure compliance with the work requirements and then turn around and complain that the work requirement gives the states more money.”

But, the provision lets states use the payments from cutting people off SNAP for any purpose, including tax cuts and special-interest subsidies or plugging holes in state budgets. That is, states wouldn’t have to use any of the money to expand job training.

Rep. Cantor’s statements to the contrary, the simple fact is this:

The House SNAP bill would let states cut poor people off SNAP even if they are actively looking for work, even if they’re on a waiting list for job training, and even if they’re working, but for less than 20 hours a week while they try to find a full-time job.

Stacy Dean

Vice President for Food Assistance Policy