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Food stamps hang in the balance as lawmakers debate cost

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Following the economic collapse of 2008, it's estimated that one in seven households rely on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. However, lawmakers are proposing drastic cuts to the program, saying the cots outweigh the benefits. With a slate of cuts expected both from the Congress and the Senate, will plates shortly go empty for nearly 47 million Americans?   

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Sine 2008, an American dependency on food stamps has increased by 70 percent. Increased enrollment has caused costs to soar from $35 billion in 2007 to $80 billion in 2012. Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are targeting program for cuts.

Legislation making its way through Congress would eliminate billions of dollars in funding for the program. A Senate committee approved striking $4.1 billion from the program over 10 years last week. In addition, a House committee backed cuts five times as large.

A congressional showdown is now brewing -- not only over how much to slash from the program, but also over the role of government in fighting hunger and poverty.

Rep. Juan Vargas (D-California), invoked the Book of Matthew as he noted his opposition to the cuts. "[Jesus] says how you treat the least among us, the least of our brothers, that's how you treat him," Vargas said, adding that Jesus mentions the importance of feeding the hungry.

Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who supports cuts to the program, had his own Bible verse from the Book of Thessalonians to quote back to Vargas: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat," he said.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the House version of the farm bill making would throw nearly two million people off food stamps, most of whom are working families with children or senior citizens. The groups also says that more than 200,000 kids would lose access to free school lunches.

The more modest Senate proposal would cost half a million SNAP recipients $90 each month, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. For a family of four, the current maximum monthly allotment is $668; recipients get less as their income rises.

"It is impossible to impose these types of cuts to SNAP without having the most vulnerable in our society suffer," Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy for the center says.

In bolstering this claim, it's pointed out that most households that get food stamps include either a child, a person over 60 or someone who is disabled, according to federal data; all are either poor or low-income. To be eligible for food assistance, income must not exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty line -- roughly $30,000 annually for a family of four.  

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