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Republican Farm Bill Hits Low-Income Families Hard

More than two million families are in danger of losing critical SNAP benefits.

USDA Flickr

President Trump loves America’s farmers. Not only has he said so repeatedly, which means it must be true, but earlier this year he promised them $12 billion in welfare they didn’t ask for (but are happy to accept) to offset the financial havoc he’s wreaked from his misguided trade war. To further show he stands behind the country’s farmers, this week the administration threw its support behind the Republican-backed farm bill currently making its way through Congress.

The only problem with the bill as written is that while it may be good for American agriculture, it’s devasting to the two million low-income American families who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that are funded through the legislation. According to new research from the nonpartisan think tank Mathematica, 469,000 households with young children would be stripped of benefits. The reason being, the spending measure changes the income and cost metrics that determine who can get SNAP benefits, as well as imposes stricter work requirements to obtain said benefits. It explains why the bill barely passed the House in June by a vote of 213-211.

Should the bill pass the Senate, states would be able to cut up to eight percent of their SNAP beneficiaries. That translates to 34 percent of seniors currently enrolled in the SNAP program, or close to 700,000 homes. Over ten percent of those enrolled with disabilities would also lose their benefits. Moreover, the new farm bill puts far stricter work requirements on as many as 7 million SNAP recipients. A study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office even found that another 1.2 million people could be stripped of their benefits should the bill make it to President Trump’s desk.

If Republicans have their way, the bill would take billions of dollars away from SNAP beneficiaries and put it into state education facilities and job training initiatives. In addition, of course, to providing billions more in subsidies for agricultural states in the Midwest. 

While Republican K. Michael Conaway, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told the Senate to “pick up the pace,” the upper body doesn’t appear to be in any rush. The Senate version of the bill, which will need to be reconciled with the House bill, is notably absent of any similar changes to SNAP work and income requirements.