WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.), along with 37 of their Senate colleagues, ahead of the first public meeting of the Senate and House 2013 Farm Bill conference committee members on Wednesday, sent a letter urging the conferees to fight against harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Senators also urged the negotiators to reject all eligibility changes that would prevent millions of children, seniors, and families facing a constant struggle against hunger from accessing nutritious food and hundreds of thousands of low-income children from accessing free school meals.
“Deep cuts to SNAP resulting from the Farm Bill’s expiration at the end of September are about to hit our most vulnerable Marylanders. Fast action by the Farm Bill Conference Committee is essential to minimizing the hurt to our seniors, children and families. The Senate conferees need to hold firm in their defense of SNAP and reject the severe budget cuts being offered by House Republicans. It is incomprehensible that lawmakers would support such a roll back of basic nutritional support that helps Marylanders in need,” said Senator Cardin.
“Earlier this year, the Senate passed smart reforms that would ensure that our most vulnerable will not have to go to bed hungry,” Senator Mikulski said. “As a former social worker, I know the importance of nutrition assistance to those who need it most and have continued to fight to support it. The legislation we passed would come as welcome relief to thousands of Marylanders in need while making common-sense reforms and supporting our agricultural economy. I urge the conferees not to make cuts to SNAP that would hurt children, families and seniors in Maryland and across America.”
The 2013 Farm Bill conference committee members are working on a compromise between the two different pieces of legislation passed by the Senate and House earlier this year. In June, the Senate passed a Farm Bill which included $4.5 billion in cuts to the SNAP program while the House passed legislation last month with even steeper cuts, slashing $40 billion over 10 years.
In addition to Senators Cardin and Mikulski, the letter was signed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.).
Full text of the Senators’ letter is below:
Dear Farm Bill Conferees,
We are writing to express our support for preventing harmful cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the Farm Bill. SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. SNAP provides essential nutrition benefits to working families, children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals in every state and town in our country. Every dollar in new SNAP benefits generates up to $1.79 in economic activity, of which approximately 16 cents goes back to the farmers.
While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance. The eligibility changes also will mean an additional 280,000 children would lose free school meals because children in SNAP households are automatically eligible for school meals. Changes would also increase administrative costs by requiring states to re-determine eligibility for SNAP, even if a household was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs.
SNAP plays a critical role at a stressful time in the life of families. It allows struggling families to put groceries on their tables when they face financial troubles. Benefits average less than $1.50 per individual, per meal, and within this limited budget they struggle to provide healthy, nutritious meals for themselves and their family. In fact half of SNAP participants entering the program are enrolled for 10 months or less.
Researchers estimate that half of all American children will receive SNAP at some point during childhood, and half of all adults will do so at some point between the ages of 20 and 65 years. Furthermore, SNAP recipients are diverse with regards to race-ethnicity, many have earned income, and the vast majority of SNAP households do not receive cash welfare benefits.
SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the world; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. Please consider the needs of these struggling families, children, and senior citizens as you negotiate the final Farm Bill and the future of the SNAP program.