U.S. House of Representatives Narrowly Passes NAACP-Opposed Shameful Legislation Making Extreme

U.S. House of Representatives Narrowly Passes NAACP-Opposed Shameful Legislation Making Extreme, Dramatic Cuts To Food Assistance Programs

Despite overwhelming and intense opposition from civil and human rights groups, farmers, and anti-hunger advocates from across the nation, as well as prominent elder statesmen from both parties, the U.S. House of Representatives, on September 19, 2013, narrowly passed a bill which, if enacted, would result in nearly $40 billion in cuts in food assistance over the next ten years.  The final vote was 217 yeas to 210 nays.
These reductions would be achieved by eliminating eligibility to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or “SNAP,” formerly known as “Food Stamps”) safety net program for almost 6 million needy Americans, including children, Veterans, low-income workers, seniors and the disabled.  Hardest hit are jobless Americans; under this bill states would no longer be able to apply to provide SNAP benefits to people who qualify for them who live in areas of high unemployment.  In short, the bill is a punishment for the status of being jobless.

Currently, almost 48 million people rely on SNAP; they receive an average of $133 in food assistance each month, which is only approximately $4.43 per day.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest figures, almost 14% of all U.S. families relied on SNAP to help put food on the table in 2012, a total of 16.6 million households.  26% of those people receiving SNAP benefits last year were African American, despite the fact that we make up less than 13% of the overall population.

Given that more than 46 million Americans – 16 million of them children – are living in poverty and more than 11 million Americans are currently unemployed, it seems counterproductive and almost cruel to take away such a crucial amount of assistance without guaranteeing worker training or job location assistance to those who may be struggling.  Furthermore, at last count more than 50 million Americans, or 1 in 6, faced hunger at some point last year.  The situation is especially dire among African Americans:  in 2011, more than one in four (25.1%) African American households were officially “food insecure.”

The legislation further punishes people by also including a provision to deny those convicted of a host of certain crimes from ever receiving SNAP food assistance (after they have served their sentences and regardless of how long they have been out of prison or jail) and it requires intrusive drug testing for all beneficiaries – regardless of their age (even children) or lack of any previous record of drug use.  These provisions are in direct contrast to the spirit of rehabilitation and, in some cases, may even inspire recidivism.   It also subjects many innocent Americans to privacy intrusions.

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