In previous years, the Farm Bill has passed without much consequence. The bill has historically been a bipartisan ‘support and stabilization’ mechanism for the country’s agricultural sector. But it also covers multiple food and nutrition programs under the control of the US Department of Agriculture. In addition to the usual content like farm subsidies and support for specific product types, the House’s 2018 Farm Bill also includes indiscriminate changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
One change increases the existing work requirement (20 hours/week of work or workforce training programs) to include older adults (50-69), and parents with children. Another change reduces how long a person can receive SNAP without meeting the work requirement from three months to one month. The changes are framed by the bill’s supporters as bringing the workfare requirements in congruence with other parts of the existing law – but many of us know from experience that it often takes more than 4 weeks to find and start a job. Without food, no one can get back on their feet and succeed. And to make matters worse, additional limits would be placed on states’ ability to waive work requirements during times of high unemployment.
A final significant piece of this legislation would levy stricter requirements on the working poor and their families who qualify for SNAP via other programs. Instead of continuing to allow those that qualify for SNAP to qualify for other assistance, these changes to Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility would increase wasted government bureaucracy.
Real people, real hunger
Before understanding the impact that changes to SNAP could have, it is important that we understand the impact that SNAP already has for people across North Carolina. In 2016, more than 1.5 million people benefited from the more than $2.2 billion which came to the state through the program. But absent the raw impact of those numbers, who are the people who benefit from SNAP? Nearly a third are parents or guardians: 459,000 of the 1.5 million SNAP recipients (30 percent) had school-aged children in 2016.
Each of these changes on their own could place millions of participants at risk of losing their benefits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the new work requirements and changes to Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility will lead to more than 1 million people losing SNAP over the next decade.
As this legislation proceeds to a floor vote in the US House of Representatives, it is important to understand the full ramifications of the proposed changes now and into the future. SNAP affects real people in communities across our state and country. SNAP supports children, seniors, and veterans by giving them access to healthy food options year-round. That is why advocacy is vitally important. The current Farm Bill expires on October 1, and as Congress works on a replacement there will be many opportunities to ensure that the voice of those affected by these changes – and your voice – is heard.
Seth Palmer is a policy wonk with a passion for using his communications skills to share important stories. In his day job, Seth is the Political Communications and Regulatory Affairs Director for NC REALTORS®, the state’s largest trade association. In this role, he is part lobbyist, part communications professional, and a lot of things in between, representing and teaching the NC REALTORS®’ 43,000 members how to be advocates for their business and industry. He has been a FBCENC Social Media Ambassador since 2013 because he believes in its work and wants to make sure everyone knows it (even if that is just through a tweet).