On Friday, February 7, President Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill which had been approved by the House and the Senate earlier in the month. The Children’s Alliance consistently opposed passage of this bill because of the harm it will cause to more than 232,000 Washington families – or 33 percent of all families using the Basic Food program. These families already had their food benefits cut in November when everyone – more than 1.1 million Washingtonians – depending on food assistance lost $25-45 in benefits.
Despite the message aired by leaders in the U.S. House and Senate, “Major Cuts to Food Stamps Avoided,” in reality the impact here is severe.
The bill makes a reduction of $8.6 billion in the Basic Food or SNAP program over the next 10 years. While only 4 percent of SNAP recipients are affected nationwide, in the 16 states that had adopted the “heat and eat” option, it’s estimated that more than 850,000 households will lose up to $90 per month in benefits for food. The “heat and eat” option streamlined administration of SNAP, linking receipt of LIHEAP (energy assistance) to provide families with additional benefits.
The 232,000 households losing benefits here at home include families depending on State Food Assistance as well; these families only receive 75 percent of the benefits that Basic Food households receive already. They are further disadvantaged by Farm Bill cuts.
Beginning in mid-March, new applicants for Basic Food will need to provide information on their utility expenses on their application. In addition to adding another step for families to negotiate, it will add significantly to the workload of Basic Food workers in the Department of Social and Health Services’ local offices.
DSHS estimates that this change in policy in the Farm Bill will reduce by $70 million the buying power of Basic Food recipients in Washington’s grocery stores and markets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that for every $5 spent in benefits, a total of $9 in local economic activity is generated so the total loss to the state will be $129 million.
Farm Bill supporters pointed to several new investments they say will help hungry families. However, the most significant one, a $200 million increase in food bank commodities, doesn’t restore one food-stamp dollar for Washington’s families.
Every child deserves nutritious food to thrive. There are immediate actions you can take to help hungry families in Washington who will see their food assistance benefits drop over the next months:
- Contact your legislator and urge inclusion in the Washington Supplemental Budget of $1.367 million for State Food Assistance to level the playing field for everyone needing food assistance in our state.
- Thank Representatives Jim McDermott and Adam Smith (Seattle) for their brave votes against the Farm Bill.
- Stay tuned for the next opportunity at the federal level to make programs work better for hungry kids: Child Nutrition Reauthorization in 2015!