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SNAP Cuts Possible as Congress Debates Farm Bill

SNAP benefits help millions of low-income Americans put food on the table each month, including about 360,000 West Virginians. (Pixabay)
SNAP benefits help millions of low-income Americans put food on the table each month, including about 360,000 West Virginians. (Pixabay)
January 8, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Congress is expected to begin work soon on the $140 billion Farm Bill. But there are concerns that some conservatives are targeting nutrition programs for cuts.

Food programs such as SNAP, WIC and subsidized school lunches are a big part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's budget, and hunger-fighting advocates fear they could become a target. James Weill is president of the Food Research and Action Center.

"There seems to be a difference of opinion between House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell about whether they're going to do welfare reform - which Ryan wants to, and McConnell doesn’t,” Weill said; "which sets a tone and a path that would affect the Farm Bill as well."

Weill pointed out that the recently passed tax bill is projected to mean a $1.5 trillion deficit in the federal budget over the next decade. He said some of the same Republicans who voted for the tax bill are now looking to cut social programs to shrink the deficit the tax bill will create.

The West Virginia Legislature also looks likely to consider changes to SNAP - such as adding work requirements. Weill said he believes both sets of proposals are a move in the wrong direction. He said while preserving the programs is a primary goal, lawmakers should also consider increasing the benefits.

"The agriculture committees have reasonably broad, bipartisan support for leaving the SNAP program largely alone, and not fixing the real problems, like benefits aren't enough to get people through the month,” he said.

Weill said it's critical for lawmakers to understand the value of SNAP to the working people who benefit from the program.

"SNAP reaches into every community of America in a fundamentally important way,” he said. "Not only is SNAP profoundly important to the economy and to the anti-hunger effort, but a lot of the stereotypes of who it's going to and how it affects communities are not quite right."

About 360,000 West Virginians get SNAP food assistance. Most are in households with children, people who are elderly or who have a disability, or they're adults in low-wage jobs.

Hunger-fighting groups warn that tightening the program wouldn't push people to work, but would only make it harder for them to feed themselves and their families. More information on the SNAP program is available here.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV