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Local advocates decry House food stamp vote

Tue, Nov 12, 2013

A $40 billion cut in food stamps passed by the House September 19 could hurt food-insecure Chicagoans, according to officials of the Greater Chicago Food Depository (GCFD) and the Illinois Hunger Coalition.

The $40 billion cut in the House is twice the amount sought in a House bill that failed in June. The Senate version, passed in May, cuts only $4.1 billion in food stamp benefits, which made concurrence and passage in both House and Senate unlikely before programs expire September 30.

“The simple fact is, if SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] funding is cut, food banks like the Food Depository will not be able to fill the gap in need,” said GCFD’s Paul Morello.

Morello said a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report shows that last year, 49 million Americans were food-insecure: they did not know where their next meal would come from. In Cook County, 860,670 men, women and children are food-insecure.

A $40 bill reduction in the food stamp program over the next decade would cut benefits for four million people across the U.S., Morello said.

Between 2008 and 2012, more than 22 percent of Illinois households with children – 1 in 5 — were food-insecure, said Diane Doherty, executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition. Hunger and poverty rates have remained high since the beginning of the recession, she said.

“Given the economic struggles that continue to persist in this state, it is outrageous that Congress is even debating cuts to SNAP,” Doherty said. “Food hardship is far too high for all households in Illinois and the situation for households with children is far worse.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits rose from 26 million in 2007 to nearly 47 million in 2012, “largely related to the severe recession and slow recovery.”

“The Senate won’t pass a farm bill without what they consider to be an appropriate food stamp program,” U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (KS) told the Farm Bureau leadership breakfast at the Kansas state fair in mid-September, according to a Kansas Farm Bureau blog on the Emporia Gazette website.

If the farm bill expires, SNAP would remain intact, because it is permanent law.
SNAP would cost $764 billion for the decade between 2014 and 2023 under current law, according to the Congressional Budget Office, quoted in USA Today. The House cuts of $40 billion would reduce these costs by five percent.

Suzanne Hanney
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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