The farm bill circulating in the House of Representatives right now would be a disaster for low-income Americans who rely on food stamps, according to the New York Times. The multiyear spending bill would change the income and expense criteria that allows low-income people to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), stripping benefits from nearly two million Americans, including 469,000 households with small children.
This would represent a huge cut to the program, allowing the government to take benefits from 8 percent of those currently receiving them. Seniors would be particularly hard hit—34 percent of them would lose benefits, according to an analysis from the research firm Mathematica. One in ten SNAP recipients with a disability would also lose benefits.
Those estimates don’t even account for another of the bill’s provisions, which would enact work requirements on more SNAP recipients, stripping another 1.2 million people of benefits.
The House version of the bill is currently at odds with the Senate version, which has bipartisan support and doesn’t cut benefits. Unsurprisingly, President Trump supports the House version of the bill.
Most Congress members who have spoken publicly about the bill focus on the farm subsidies it includes, which have become essential as Trump’s trade wars have escalated. “Today my colleagues in the House and Senate highlighted the urgency in farm and ranch country and just how desperate times are as net farm income is slated to fall again this year,” Rep. K. Michael Conaway, a Republican from Texas who heads the House Agriculture Committee, said this week, according to the Times.
Some Senators say that it’s unlikely the House cuts will make it into the final bill, thanks to the focus on quickly passing the bill for farmers. But others worry that some of the House cuts will be passed.
“Those who rely on SNAP—two-thirds of whom are children, older adults and people with disabilities—should have access to benefits without undue barriers,” Jasmine Hall Ratliff a spokesperson for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation who funded the Mathematica study, told the Times.
The Agriculture Department reported this week that 15 million Americans are “food insecure.” The number is higher than it was before the 2008 crash, showing that many households still haven’t recovered economically.
“We must not accept mass deprivation in the wealthiest nation in world history as any sort of ‘new normal,’” Joel Berg, the CEO of Hunger Free America, told the Times. “Hunger is unacceptable in any society, but it’s particularly outrageous in the United States.”