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Congress Could Take Aim at SNAP Benefits

Nearly two-in-three food stamp participants in Colorado are children, elderly, or have disabilities. (Pixabay)
Nearly two-in-three food stamp participants in Colorado are children, elderly, or have disabilities. (Pixabay)
January 9, 2018

DENVER – 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 school lunches are a big part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's budget, and advocates fear they could become a target.

James Weill is the 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," he notes. "Ryan wants to, and McConnell doesn't, which sets a tone and a path that would affect the farm bill."

Weill says the recently passed tax bill is projected to result in a $1.5 trillion deficit in the federal budget over the next decade. He says some of the same Republicans who voted for the tax bill are now looking to cut social programs to shrink the deficit they created.

Currently, one in 12 Coloradans utilize the food-stamp program.. And nearly two thirds of participants are children, elderly, or have disabilities.

Weill says SNAP and other food-assistance plans make up about 70 percent of the USDA budget. He says while preserving those programs is the primary goal, some improvements are also needed.

"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 says.

He says it's critical for lawmakers to understand the value of SNAP and the working people who benefit from the program.

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

Weill says with several other major issues facing Congress, it could be spring before they take up the farm bill.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO