EDITORIAL: Don't change the rules on food stamps
Taking food away from children in poor families.
That's what a provision in the House version of the Farm Bill boils down to.
The House bill, which passed 213-211, tightens work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, according to The Associated Press.
Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their benefits. The bill raises the top age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and requires parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training and to submit proof every month that they worked at least 20 hours each week, according to the Center on Budget and Police Priorities.
The penalty for not filling out the paperwork would be harsh: People could be locked out of SNAP benefits for three years.
Government auditors estimate that in 10 years, there would be about 1.2 million fewer people receiving SNAP benefits in an average month if the bill becomes law.
The Senate version of the bill doesn't make the change, leaving in place work requirements for those who don't have children but allowing parents to continue receiving benefits even if they're not working.
We agree with Rep. Scott Perry's decision to vote against the House version of the bill, although there were complications. According to the Congressional Record, Perry tried to vote nay, but a malfunction in the voting machine caused his vote to not appear.
Perry supported changes to the sugar program and other programs that would help family farms and curb costs to taxpayers, he said when he first voted against the bill in May, and those concerns were not resolved in the final version of the bill.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., also cited the sugar program in his statement on why he voted voted against the Senate version of the farm bill, along with the lack of reforms for agricultural subsidies. Toomey was one of 11 senators to vote against the bill; Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., voted for it.
SNAP benefits account for three-quarters of the cost of the farm bill, according to Politico. They also provide a lifeline for more than 40 million Americans, including 19 million children.
In York County, 15,400 households receive food stamp assistance, 56 percent of them households with children and more than 50 percent of them households living in poverty. On average, Pennsylvania households with children received $393 per month in benefits, an average of $121 per person, according to CBPP.
And many of them work already. A family of three making $2,213 a month or less is eligible for assistance.
Republicans — no Democrats voted for the House bill — like to say that they're saving taxpayer money by getting people off the rolls for program such as SNAP. But this change wouldn't save anything.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the House farm bill will cost $430 billion over five years and $868 billion over a 10-year scoring window, according to Roll Call. The Senate farm bill would cost $428 billion for fiscal years 2019 through 2023 and $867 billion for fiscal years 2019 through 2028.
They like to talk of making people help themselves and making it easier for poor people to get out of poverty, but many Republicans policies are really about punishing people for being poor. In this case, they're punishing children because their parents are poor.
Adding a new level of bureaucracy for parents struggling to feed their children will do no one any good.
We can only hope that during reconciliation, members of the House and Senate can take out this clause.