Food Stamp Cuts On Radar For Republican Congress, Democrats Expected To Oppose

Food stamp cuts may be inevitable with a fully loaded Republican Congress hoping to curb abuses and guide chronic participants back into the workforce.

House Republicans have targeted the $74 billion food stamps program and are planning to tweak both costs and eligibility, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.

Texas Republican Representative Mike Conaway, chair of the House Agriculture Committee, has scheduled the first hearing for February 25. During that meeting, the former Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, or SNAP, will be front-and-center on the list of hot topics.

Conaway is particularly troubled by the size of the current program, feeling that it speaks to a declining work ethic, especially considering that the number of participants has doubled in the last decade, to 46.5 million people.

“A family that depends on their own work is more secure,” Conaway told WSJ.

“There’s a dignity in taking care of yourself.”

Opposing Views notes that currently, “a family can qualify for food stamps with four dependants [sic] and a gross monthly income less than $2,584.” Any food stamp cuts would seek to tighten eligibility requirements and limit the amount of time for which an able-bodied worker and their family could receive benefits.

According to Douglas Besharov, professor at the University of Maryland, eligibility could be looked at as one way to fairly curtail the program.

“The program was structured when malnutrition was a real problem… It has now become a form of income support,” he said.

The Democratic point of view isn’t leaving a lot of room for compromise, some critics have said, pointing to statements like this one from Jim Govern, Massachusetts Democratic Representative and a member of the House of Agricultural Committee.

“We cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor people.”

WSJ notes that close to 40 percent of recipients “are able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 60” and that the rest “are children, elderly, or disabled adults.”

Average gross income for all recipient households is $758 a month.

The Agriculture Department is nearing a decision to award $200 million in grants to states that set up programs to guide recipients into jobs. Conaway seems to support this idea as data on how food stamp monies are being spent is lacking, he said.

“We really have a hard time saying whether the program is successful,” Conaway added.

What do you think, readers? Is it time to get behind food stamp cuts, or is this truly balancing a budget “on the backs of poor people?” Sound off in our comments section.

[Photo by Andrew Burton / Staff / Getty Images]