President Obama has come under severe criticism for the recent signing of a bill that will cut $8.7 billion from the federal food stamp program. The cuts are designed to take place over 10 years and were part of a negotiated larger spending bill on American agriculture. Portions of the bill cover crop insurance rates, farm subsidies and other federal programs. The federal food stamp program is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and with the bill’s passage it is estimated that up to 1 million households may lose $90 in monthly food stamp benefits. President Obama praised the bill as an example o f bipartisan leadership that will create jobs and move the economy forward in growth.
In the original bill, House Republicans wanted a deep cut of $20.5 to $39 billion out of the food stamp program. However, Obama made it clear that he would veto any such bill that cut so deeply into the program. At the signing of the new bill the president did not mention any of the negotiations that took place or whether he was satisfied with the final bill. “My position has always been that any Farm Bill I sign must include protections for vulnerable Americans, and thanks to the hard work of [Senate Agriculture Committee chair] Debbie Stabenow and others, it does just that,” he said.
Unfortunately, these statements do not take into the account what is going on at the state level when it comes to the food stamp program. Changes in the eligibility requirements for assistance have had a dramatic impact on poor families. In Georgia, new rules went into place last week mandating that able-bodied adults without children can collect food stamps for only three months in a three-year period, unless they get into a job or training program. This will mean that 5,000 will lose their food stamp benefits in three metro Atlanta counties. The impact of such requirements and changes by states will dramatically affect the poor. According to the center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
“More than 500,000 and as many as 1 million of the nation’s poorest people will be cut off SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) over the course of 2016 … The impact will be felt in the 22 states that must or are choosing to reimpose the time limit in 2016.”
This work requirement on the surface may seem to be reasonable to supporters of these changes. But it is not taking into account the high unemployment rate due to lack of jobs. Very few states that have adopted the work requirement are offering training or jobs to those affected by the new rules. This can represent a loss of $150 to $170 per person per month, which will increase economic hardship for recipients.