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June 20, 2018
House Farm Bill Would Harm MA Individuals & Families

The Farm Bill is the primary legislation that shapes and funds the majority of the food and agricultural programs in the United States including large parts of our nutrition assistance programs. Project Bread closely monitors the Farm Bill because it is also the bill that determines the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which currently helps over 40 million low-income Americans, including over 750,000 in Massachusetts, afford an adequate diet.

On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the 2018 Farm Bill with a narrow vote of 213-211. This bill includes proposals that will make more people in our nation and state go hungry. Right now, 1 in 8 Massachusetts residents rely on SNAP to put food on the table. The cuts and changes in this legislation are incredibly harmful, and we call on members of Congress to oppose the proposed changes to SNAP included in this legislation.

Project Bread's mission is to prevent and end hunger in Massachusetts, with the approach to provide access to affordable, healthy food to those who are hungry today while also working to eradicate the systemic causes of hunger. The proposals in the House Farm Bill would move the country backward on both.

We believe that in order to address hunger we must meet people where they are. SNAP is the most effective tool we have in reducing hunger while preserving dignity. In Massachusetts, the high cost of living presents a challenge for low-income households. While juggling the cost of childcare, rent, transportation, and healthcare, SNAP enables eligible families to afford to eat in tough times. This Farm Bill would make life more difficult for these vulnerable families by:

  • Reducing the number of individuals eligible for this important program. 
    • Currently, a household of four is eligible for SNAP if they earn less than $49,200. The proposal would reduce this eligibility to only those making an income of $24,600 or less. In Massachusetts, a family of four simply cannot pay their bills on this income leading to difficult choices between paying bills and putting food on the table. In order to afford a two-bedroom apartment a household needs to earn over $70,000 per year in Massachusetts.
    • This proposal also reduces eligibility for unemployed and underemployed. The purpose of SNAP is to be a safety net for individual and families during difficult times, such as when facing a job loss. This proposal would push roughly 3 million nationwide out of SNAP.
  • Discouraging getting a job and earning more. Currently, as a household's income increases, SNAP decreases gradually as to smooth the path upward out of poverty. Under this Farm Bill, a household would lose benefits entirely once they earn above 130 percent of the poverty level ($24,600 for the household of 4).
  • Limiting eligibility to adults struggling to find stable, consistent employment without providing sufficient support. This Farm Bill would only provide $30 per participant per month in SNAP education and training funds—hardly enough to provide sufficient and meaningful job training slots. If states fail to provide accessible training services, recipients would lose their benefits after just one month. We know it is much harder to find a job while hungry. We should ensure people are fed while encouraging them to seek the training, education, and support needed to find a job.
  • Making people choose between heat and food. This winter was an especially cold one in Massachusetts, and in our state, utility costs are 57% higher than the national average. This Farm Bill removes a provision nicknamed "heat and eat," which allows households receiving a modest fuel assistance subsidy to qualify for higher SNAP benefits.

1 in 10 households in our state struggle with food insecurity. The provisions outlined above would take away a critical safety net for these families.

Hunger is a crisis that impacts every community. We support the Senate's bipartisan approach that preserves a strong safety-net for American families and urge Congress to preserve & strengthen SNAP in the final version of this bill, in addition to making a serious investment in job training and continuing to create opportunities for well-paying jobs.

Statement attributed to Project Bread President Erin McAleer

Filed under: Informing Public Policy, News and Events