Press Statement: House Farm Bill Will Increase Hunger in PA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2018

CONTACT: Just Harvest Policy Advocate Ann Sanders
(412) 431-8960 x109 (w) | anns@justharvest.org

PITTSBURGH, PA — Roughly 1 in 8 of our neighbors in Allegheny County currently receive SNAP to help them afford food. SNAP is our nation’s flagship anti-hunger program, serving over 40 million Americans, the vast majority of whom are children, seniors, people with disabilities, and working adults. The Farm Bill that is currently before the House of Representatives (H.R. 2) reverses decades of bipartisan efforts to streamline and reduce administrative burdens and will make it harder for struggling Pennsylvanians to put food on the table.

This proposed Farm Bill will increase hunger in Pennsylvania in two major ways:

1. Major cuts and restrictions to families who receive SNAP

H.R. 2 eliminates a key provision — Categorical Eligibility — that enables households who are above the poverty level to qualify for benefits under certain circumstances. The result is that 70,000 families in Pennsylvania will lose access to food assistance.Just Harvest assists families in applying for SNAP benefits. Roughly 10% of the families we’ve served would lose their benefits if this provision is eliminated. More than 3/4 of these families include someone who is elderly or disabled, and the remainder are all working families.

Another provision H.R. 2 eliminates, Heat and Eat, boosts SNAP eligibility among people who receive home energy assistance or whose heating costs are part of their rent. By eliminating this provision, they will have to supply additional documentation of their heating expenses or their grocery budgets will be cut by $60 a month on average.

These restrictions don’t just affect SNAP participation: when families with children no longer receive SNAP, their children may also have a harder time qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals.

2. Reduced access to SNAP through sweeping and wasteful expanded work requirements

The bill would expand SNAP work requirements to people who are in their 50s, live in areas of high unemployment, or have children over age 6 – roughly 250,000 Pennsylvanians. These recipients must demonstrate every month that they are working or participating in a work program at least 20 hours a week. Otherwise, they can be locked out of food assistance for 12 months or three years.

These provisions would force Pennsylvania to develop a large new bureaucracy to track SNAP recipients’ work hours and exemption status every month. The state would also need to create a job training and work program for these participants dwarfing even the nation’s largest federal job training program, which trained about 153,000 people nationwide in 2015.

The bill plans to fund the work program through some of the “savings” from denying people food assistance. Yet those drastic measures would generate only $30 per person each month, a tiny fraction of what operating effective job programs actually costs.

These requirements leave substantial numbers of low-income people who have various barriers to steady employment with neither earnings nor food assistance. Chronically ill people unable to document a disability, and self-employed people and family caregivers unable to document their work hours, will be ineligible for food assistance.

If Congress wants to reduce the number of people receiving SNAP, they need to look at ways to reduce hunger and poverty. Instead of cutting access to food assistance, they should be strengthening SNAP while also making real investments in job training and education; ensuring that workers are paid living wages; and supporting people’s ability to maintain employment by funding affordable, high-quality child care and paid family and medical leave.

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JUST HARVEST addresses hunger in Allegheny County at its root – economic injustice – by improving public policy, boosting food access, and building community power.

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