I write about a debate now occurring in Congress in which the GOP is threatening millions of American families, including 200,000 Iowa households. The debate is over food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”).
To understand the problem, we need only review the survey-report issued by the Department of Agriculture on September 4. (Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Mark Nord, Anita Singh, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2012”). The report shows that nearly 49 million Americans lived in “food insecure” households last year. This means family members lack consistent access to adequate food throughout the year. In short, 49 million Americans (over 16 times the Iowa population) went hungry for long periods in 2012. Worse, children were found to be hungry in 10% of all U.S. families with children. The agency found that hunger rates since the 2007 recession are much higher than before.
Many people have a misunderstanding of this hunger; many think the hungry are the same persons who are homeless. In fact, in most cases the hungry are persons who work at low-paying jobs or are disabled from work.
The GOP (mostly the House GOP) wants to cut food stamps. Yet, food stamps have been the centerpiece of our country’s safety net for the poor. Benefits are adjusted for income. Recipients can use SNAP benefits only for food, notwithstanding Rep. Steve King’s assertion that he knows food stamps are used for bail and tattoos. Nearly 48 million Americans now receive food stamps (about 15% of the approximately 314 million Americans), at an annual cost to us of about $80 billion.
No matter what Congress decides, food stamps expenditures will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. House Republicans, however, propose Continue reading