Congress still has not passed a federal Farm Bill, a major piece of legislation that gets renewed every five years or so. The Farm Bill includes critical funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “Food Stamps”).
The U.S. House of Representatives version of the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) was defeated in the House in May. Advocates for hungry Texans opposed the bill because it hurts families who rely on SNAP to feed their families.
While the House version of the bill is still a threat, the U.S. Senate just released its bipartisan version of the Farm Bill (S. 3042), and it does not take food away from families. Instead it protects and strengthens the ability of SNAP to help struggling Americans. The Senate bill is good for Texans because:
- It strengthens the relationship between employers and SNAP Employment & Training, and provides $185 million to create pilot projects designed to get older workers, those recovering from substance abuse, and the formerly incarcerated back to work.
- It strengthens program integrity by putting systems in place to make it easier for states to accurately calculate SNAP eligibility and benefits.
- It modernizes and improves technology, including making the Lone Star card system more reliable for families and retailers.
- It makes it easier for the elderly and disabled who are not working to keep their SNAP benefits.
- It funds food banks to provide extra food to seniors, and several other initiatives to support healthy eating.
The Senate bill is a huge improvement over the House Farm Bill that may come back later this month. The House bill would cut or even completely take away food benefits for 2 million Americans, making it harder for millions of working families to put food on the table. In all, the cuts proposed would take away $19 billion in actual money that families receive and instead spends billions setting up a new system of untested work documentation requirements. Alarmingly, the House bill also promotes privatizing SNAP eligibility systems, despite the disastrous results when Texas and other states have attempted that change. The House bill remains a bad deal for Texas because it makes it harder for struggling Texans to turn to SNAP for help:
- It removes state flexibility to adjust eligibility standards which will cause 125,000 Texans—mainly seniors citizens and the working poor—to be kicked off SNAP.
- It creates a “one strike and you starve” policy by banning parents and others from SNAP for a full year the first time they are not able to meet the weekly work-hour documentation requirement through a job or training program.
- It would allow states to outsource all their administrative functions including determining whether people are eligible for assistance. This could not only put the private data of millions of Texans at risk of a security breach, but a company expecting to make a profit may shortchange the elderly and others with complex and time-consuming cases.
Texas has a horrible history with outsourcing of SNAP and other public programs. In the early 2000’s Texas was one of the first states to outsource much of its eligibility system and it became an example of government privatization at its worst. Thousands of Texans waited months for the applications to be processed, had their information lost or were incorrectly denied. Instead of outsourcing saving money, the state terminated the contract and spent millions cleaning up the mess.
For 3.8 million Texans, SNAP makes the difference between feeding their families and going hungry. Tell the Texas Congressional delegation to protect SNAP and support the Senate Farm Bill.