Three Ways the House Farm Bill Hurts the Families We Serve

Recently, the House Agriculture Committee voted to advance the most consequential food policy bill in our country. H.R. 2 – The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (the Farm Bill) – makes deep cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food assistance to more than 40 million Americans.

These bills can be complicated and cumbersome, so we have broken it down to help explain three ways the House Farm Bill could hurt millions of Americans already struggling to put food on the table.

  1. Families with children as young as six would lose food assistance if they can’t find a job in one month. The House Farm Bill changes existing law and forces parents with children six years of age and older, and adults under the age of 60, to find a job within a month or lose food assistance for a year or more. The proposal doesn’t account for or address the barriers individuals might face in finding sufficient work, including unpredictable hours common in low-wage work, transportation and childcare costs, or the difficulty older Americans have reentering the evolving workforce even if the desire exists. 

  2. Working families will lose food assistance because states will no longer be able to determine the income threshold for SNAP recipients. Currently, states have the ability to raise the SNAP gross income eligilibility threshold to 200% of the federal poverty line (FPL). For a family of four this equates to a gross income of $4,183 a month. This flexibility allows states to account for the cost of living in their particular state and ensure there is no benefit cliff.

    Under current rules, SNAP benefits can slowly phase out as income rises, thereby promoting work. Currently, most states choose to ensure recipients won’t face a sharp decline in money coming into the household as the household gains more earnings. By eliminating the ability for states to determine what is best for their residents, and restricting SNAP to only households making 130% FPL (a gross income of $2,665 a month for a family of four), SNAP benefits won’t be able to be slowly phased out and would result in a loss of food assistance for working families.

  3. States will be required to track and document the number of hours SNAP recipients work every month, creating a system that puts food assistance at risk.The House Farm Bill will force states to create and implement a new system to keep timesheets for millions of individuals on SNAP every month. This will require significant administrative investment in state IT systems, but also in their staffing – which will mean less time available for staff to support SNAP participants as they overcome barriers to employment and find meaningful work. Massive new tracking systems coupled with burdensome requirements will strain states and put SNAP benefits at risk for working families.

Feeding America’s nationwide network of member food banks distributes more than four billion meals annually, however, our contribution to addressing hunger in the United States cannot work alone to provide meals for families who are struggling with hunger. SNAP is the front line in helping us end hunger in America. For every one meal provided by the Feeding America network, SNAP provides 12.

It is critical you add your voice – call your member of Congress and ask them to oppose H.R. 2 and not increase hunger in our communities. It’s only when we are willing to come together on both sides of the aisle that we’ll be able to find solutions to help us end hunger in America.

By: Robb Friedlander, Feeding America