As the nation prepares to observe Veterans Day, a new report finds that 15,000 New Jersey veterans rely on federal assistance to put food on the table – aid that is threatened under a Congressional proposal that would deny help to thousands of New Jersey residents, including veterans.
The Center for Budget Policy and Priorities’ just released data show that 5 percent of New Jersey’s 335,000 veterans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) to feed themselves and their families.
Nationally, 1.4 million low-income veterans rely on SNAP to put food on their tables, the report found.
“These are men and women who have put their lives on the line and sacrificed to keep our country safe,” said Adele LaTourette, director, Hunger Free New Jersey, a statewide advocacy group. “We should be doing all we can to ensure these brave men and women have the resources they need to live healthy, productive lives.”
Yet one version of a key piece of federal legislation known as the “farm bill” would drastically cut SNAP.
The House version of the farm bill, passed in June, would eliminate benefits to at least 35,000 New Jersey residents who would no longer qualify for help because of their income, while also taking food away from people who can’t find a job. The Senate version protects and strengthens SNAP, LaTourette said.
Both houses have failed to reach an agreement on the bill and are expected to try to resolve their differences between now and the end of the year.
“Our lawmakers must be able to agree that, in the United States of America, no veteran should go hungry,” LaTourette said. “That’s why, this Veterans Day, we’re calling on Congress to support people who have bravely served our nation in uniform by passing a farm bill that protects and strengthens SNAP.”
SNAP is one of the nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs, helping more than 750,000 New Jersey households get back on their feet and pay for groceries, including seniors, people with disabilities and many workers who are in between jobs or working a job with unstable hours and few benefits. This assistance is particularly important for low-income veterans who often struggle to find a job, work in low-wage jobs or have disabilities.
Yet, the House farm bill would impose even stricter work requirements than New Jersey already requires of people receiving this assistance. The proposal would hurt low-income veterans especially hard, as many veterans face unique barriers when they seek to resume or rebuild their civilian lives and start new careers, the report said.
For example, young veterans who leave active duty may have little work experience beyond military service or may have trouble finding a job that matches their skills. Young male veterans have higher unemployment rates than similar civilians, which can make it harder for them to afford to buy enough food, the report said.
All but one of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation – Rep. Tom MacArthur – rejected efforts to cut SNAP.
“The bipartisan farm bill passed by the Senate affirms what millions of people across the country know to be true: SNAP reduces hunger and poverty,” LaTourette said. “We thank our representatives for voting to protect this aid from cuts and hope they will continue to fight for a resolution that assists – not punishes — our low-income veterans.”