Fox Business host Lou Dobbs downplayed proposed cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that experts have estimated could end eligibility for millions of low-income households.
On the June 11 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs reported on proposed changes to the farm bill, the legislation that includes authorization and funding for the SNAP program. After noting that both the House and Senate versions of the bill reduced SNAP funding by several billion dollars, Dobbs downplayed the effects of the cuts: "The Senate bill would actually cut spending on food stamps by an almost negligible $4 billion, but a bill awaiting debate in the House calls for a $20 billion cut in food stamps. Still, when you're talking about both measures providing $700 billion to food stamps alone over the next decade, neither cut, of course, is particularly sharp."
But the cuts would have significant effects on SNAP eligibility. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that the version of the bill advanced by the House Agriculture Committee, which cuts about $20 billion from SNAP over 10 years, would cause almost 2 million low-income people to lose SNAP eligibility and limit access to school meals:
The proposed cuts would cause significant hardship to several million low-income households.
- The bill would terminate SNAP eligibility for several million people. By eliminating the categorical eligibility state option, which over 40 states have adopted, the bill would cut nearly 2 million low-income people off SNAP.
- Several hundred thousand low-income children would lose access to free school meals. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 10,000 children in low-income families whose eligibility for free school meals is tied to their receipt of SNAP would lose free school meals when their families lose SNAP benefits.
- Some working-poor families would lose access to SNAP because they own a modest car, which they often need to commute to their jobs, especially in rural areas. Eliminating categorical eligibility would cause some low-income working households to lose benefits simply because of the value of a modest car they own. Many of these families would be forced to choose between owning a reliable car and receiving food assistance to help feed their families.
The Food Research and Action Council found that, due to cuts in the House bill, "850,000 households, which include 1.7 million people, primarily in 15 states, could lose $90 in SNAP per month." In the Huffington Post, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president James S. Marks wrote that in addition to the effect on low-income households, cutting SNAP benefits harms the economy:
Cutting SNAP is precisely the wrong prescription for our children and the nation's economic recovery. The notion that SNAP benefits are an overly generous handout could not be further from the truth. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average monthly benefit in FY2012 was $133.41 per person, or less than $5 a day. Yet, overall, those funds have a profound effect on the economy. Economists have found that SNAP is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, especially in a weak economy. According to Moody Analytics, every dollar increase in SNAP benefits generates $1.72 in economic activity.
In addition to the economic consequences, cutting SNAP also would undermine the health of children and families. Nearly half of SNAP's beneficiaries are children. The proposed cuts to SNAP in the bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee would cause 2 million people to lose their food assistance entirely and prevent more than 200,000 children from receiving free school meals. Cuts of this magnitude would be a huge setback in the fight against both childhood obesity and hunger. Nearly a third of our nation's children and teens are overweight or obese, and youths from lower-income families are disproportionately affected. They struggle to maintain a healthy weight while managing limited resources and the daily stresses that come with living in underserved neighborhoods. SNAP helps families stretch their food dollars to alleviate hunger and buy healthier foods.