Two vastly different versions of legislation known as the “Farm Bill” are now in play. The Farm Bill sets policy and funding for nutrition programs, like the SNAP, and for farm subsidies.
The House passed a proposal that would impose harmful cuts to food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps), while the Senate version strengthens SNAP.
This House bill, which passed on June 22, 2018, would eliminate benefits to at least 35,000 New Jersey residents who would no longer qualify for help, while also taking food away from people if they can’t find a job.
This is under the guise of helping people find work. But we know that cutting food assistance will only lead to more financial instability and make it even harder for people to find secure jobs that pay a living wage.
The Senate version strengthens SNAP by improving program integrity and operations and expanding pilot programs to test promising approaches to job training and other employment-related activities for SNAP participants. The measure would make targeted investments in SNAP to help seniors and people with disabilities. And, the bill would make changes to and increase funding for certain grant programs outside of SNAP.
Punitive Work Requirements
The House version calls for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 59 to work or be enrolled in a job-training program for at least 20 hours a week beginning in fiscal year 2021. The minimum number of hours would jump to 25 hours per week starting in fiscal year 2026. Currently, people up to age 49 are subject to 20-hour-a-week work requirements, under federal rules.
Failure to meet these requirements would mean that SNAP benefits would be completely cut for a 12-month period. Subsequent violations could result in three years of lost benefits.
While we all want people to land good jobs, the truth is that in many areas those jobs are simply not available. And New Jersey’s current approach to job training is a patchwork of programs – some effective, but others offering little more than busy work so people can fulfill current work requirements.
Fewer Families Eligible
The bill would also lower the income limits at which a family can qualify. Right now, people earning up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, about $45,000 for a family of four, can qualify for help. The proposal would lower that to 130 percent, or about $32,600 a year for a family of four. (The elderly and people with disabilities would be exempt from this rule).
This change will hit working parents particularly hard, as they are the ones most likely to qualify for SNAP with higher incomes because they can deduct child care and other qualified expenses. That means fewer working parents would receive this assistance in New Jersey, where the high-cost of living makes it nearly impossible for people earning even middle-income wages to make ends meet.
This also threatens to make it harder for children to receive school breakfast and lunch because they would no longer be automatically enrolled to receive these federally-funded meals that help keep them healthy and learning.
Other proposed changes could disqualify people if they own a car worth over a certain amount of money – a move that is obviously counter to helping people find jobs.
The bill would also create an unwieldy and expensive bureaucracy that is supposed to help people find good jobs but would likely create more paperwork and hurdles for ineffective programs. It would also require more paperwork to be submitted for people to qualify in certain cases.
Send a Clear Message to Congress
Please join us in sending a strong message to all of our federal representatives that this proposal is damaging and unacceptable. Instead of punishing people, we need to strengthen SNAP, while providing meaningful pathways to secure employment. That’s the only effective way to fight hunger and poverty.
The coalition’s SNAP Action Page lets you add your voice to the growing outrage over this misguided proposal. It just takes a couple of clicks to send an e-mail or a social media post to your member of Congress. You don’t even need to know who they are. Our online advocacy page will help you easily send a strong message to your Congressional representative.
Your voice matters! Help fight hunger in New Jersey and send your message now.