As federal lawmakers struggle to come to agreement on a budget for 2012, they’re talking over several ideas that could do real harm to Washington’s kids and their families.
In addition to funding reductions for Medicaid and Apple Health for Kids, Rep. Paul Ryan has suggested cutting SNAP (the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps –called Basic Food in Washington state). To make matters worse, Rep. Ryan also proposes converting it into a block grant managed individually by each state.
Food stamps are a vital part of the anti-hunger infrastructure. In our state last year, SNAP helped put food on the table for more than a million people, two-thirds of which are families with children. Like unemployment insurance, it’s a great responder in times of crisis, putting money in families’ pockets when they need it most.
In the recent economic recession, food stamp utilization in Washington has gone up 78 percent; unemployment insurance claims have risen 119 percent. If anything, those numbers show the program is working exactly as it was meant to and responding to rising need.
Rep. Ryan’s proposal would cut SNAP by $127 billion over the next 10 years.If the cuts were distributed evenly over the next decade, we’d see a 19 percent drop in funding each year.
Ryan’s cut rests on a false premise: that the recent rise in food stamp utilization can only continue at a “relentless and unsustainable” rate. Two major external factors caused SNAP to go up in recent years: the recession and the price of food. According to the Congressional Budget Office, SNAP spending (as a percentage of the overall Gross Domestic Product) will shrink by 40 percent in the next 10 years as the economy gets stronger.
His proposal would also block-grant the program in 2015 – meaning that each state would get a fixed allotment each year, therefore preventing SNAP from responding quickly to rising need.
If the program was block-granted and needs rise, states would have to make difficult funding decisions and could cut funding for other related programs like State Food Assistance (SFA), which is a program that helps extend access to food stamps to Washington’s legal immigrants and refugees, to help fill the holes.
SNAP is a program with broad support, here and nationwide; a similar proposal to block grant the program failed in 1995 due to broad opposition from farmers and grocers. This time, we can all join in.
We believe that the success of food stamps needs to continue – no matter where a family hails from. This is why we are firmly against proposals to slash and block-grant SNAP as well to cuts that our state lawmakers are considering to SFA.
If you haven’t taken action yet, please do so here. Tell members of Congress that it’s unacceptable to damage critical programs like food stamps in the 2012 budget.
Making families hungrier: that’s not how we climb out of a recession.