WASHINGTON - November 18 - The House of Representatives passed a budget bill yesterday that changes eligibility requirements for the Food Stamp Program, cutting benefits for approximately 220,000 to 250,000 vulnerable people. The budget reconciliation bill aims to cut the Food Stamp Program by $675 million.
"We are disappointed that the House made cuts to the Food Stamp Program and are poised to cut taxes for the wealthy. Their choice takes food from families struggling to make ends meet and puts more money in the pockets of those who need it the least," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "This is morally wrong and will make Thanksgiving bleaker for hundreds of thousands of hard-working families."
Leaders made minor changes before the budget vote to minimally curb the effect of the food stamp cuts to win wider support for the bill. However, the final version still cuts more than 220,000 from the program. The majority of these cuts will affect welfare-to-work families who receive non-cash Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits and legal immigrants who have been in this country for more than five years.
"With hunger on the rise and the forces of nature exposing poverty anew, plans to cut this vital, proven program make no sense. House leaders should be ashamed of trying to preserve tax cuts for our nation's wealthiest people at the expense of basic assistance for working families struggling to put food on the table," Rev. Beckmann said.
Last month the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the statistics on hunger and food insecurity for 2004. The number of people living in food insecure households has risen by nearly 2 million people (from 36.3 million individuals in 2003 to 38.2 million in 2004). More than 13 million children live in food insecure households. The number of people who live in households that suffer from outright hunger rose from 9.6 million to 10.6 million. These increases in hunger and food insecurity are sharper than in previous years.
The Senate passed a budget bill that contained no cuts to the Food Stamp Program. Consequently, the conference between the House and the Senate will decide the impact of the budget on the more than 220,000 vulnerable people who are at risk of losing their food stamps.