Food stamps took another hit today as negotiators from both parties in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives agreed on a long-delayed Farm Bill that cuts spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — but not nearly as much as Republicans wanted to slash the food aid to struggling workers and families, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.
Under the bill agreed upon today, SNAP — which is the actual name of the program informally known as “food stamps” — will be cut by about 1 percent, or about $800 million per year for 10 years. Conservative Republicans had demanded cuts of $4 billion per year over the next decade.
The food stamps program is paid for through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is why spending on food stamps is part of a Farm Bill.
The bill, of course, still requires votes in the Senate and House. While the Democratic-controlled Senate seems likely to pass the bill, it is expected to face resistance in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives where conservatives who would prefer to dismantle the food stamps program altogether will be upset with the relatively small cuts.
As The Washington Post reported, an earlier version of the Farm Bill crashed and burned in the House when those same Republicans demanded deeper damage to the food stamps program. That failed bill contained cuts more than twice as hefty as the newest version of the Farm Bill.
In September, House Republicans passed their version of the Farm Bill which would have cut the full $40 billion from food stamps. As The New York Times reported, Republicans at the time said that the bill insured fiscal responsibility, but one Democratic congressman, James McGovern of Massachusetts reflected the views of most in his party when he called it, “one of the most heartless bills I have ever seen.”
The bill had zero chance of advancing through the Senate, leading Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow to deem it, “a monumental waste of time.”
According to a recent study carried out by the University of Kentucky and The Associated Press, the demographics of food stamp recipients have changed dramatically over the past 30 years.
While the majority of food stamp users have traditionally been children and senior citizens, for the first time more than 50 percent are now Americans between the ages of 18 and 59, compared to 44 percent in 1998, according to an account of the study in The Christian Science Monitor.
While 30 years ago the largest percentage of households needing food stamps were headed by a high school dropout, now 28 percent are headed by a person with at least some amount of college education — and 5 percent are headed by someone with a four-year college degree, as opposed to 3 percent in 1980.
Stagnation in wages while prices continue to rise plays a major role in the shift in food stamps mostly to working-age people, the study found.