Cutting SNAP Benefits Keeps People In Poverty
“Suppose a person claims to have faith but doesn’t act on their faith. My brothers and sisters, can this kind of faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister has no clothes or food. Suppose one of you says to them, ‘Go. I hope everything turns out fine for you. Keep warm. Eat well.’ And suppose you do nothing about what they really need. Then what good have you done?” James 2:14–16
The Trump administration recently released a proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would reduce the number of Americans who could access Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called food stamps, ultimately removing over 3 million people from the program. Currently, 43 states allow families who receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to automatically qualify for food-stamp benefits as well. Under the new rule, states could use a person’s savings or assets to disqualify them from receiving benefits. For example, if you had over $2,250 in savings, you’d have to spend your hard earned savings on food before the government would assist, or an elderly person could be denied benefits simply because their house is paid off.
The current administration would rather our nation’s most vulnerable deplete their savings and chances of getting out of poverty instead of providing them with food. They would rather a senior citizen refinance their home and put themselves into debt than provide basic food stamp benefits. The cuts also put tighter restrictions on income, meaning that if a worker takes an extra shift or receives something as small as a 50 cent raise, it could cause their food stamps to be immediately cut off. Despite being what many policy experts say to be our country’s most successful anti-poverty program, this administration seems determined to scale it back. These efforts are a blatant attempt to keep the poor and low wealth in poverty.
Many low wealth families who receive SNAP benefits but not TANF are working full-time but dealing with huge child care costs, housing, and other expenses. The program also allows children who receive SNAP benefits to qualify for free or reduced lunches. By tying SNAP directly in with TANF benefits, millions of families who rely on the program to put food on their tables will now be forced to decide between things like child care or food.
We have 64 million people in this country currently working for less than $15 per hour, struggling to make ends meet. There is no state or county where someone earning the federal minimum wage could afford a 2-bedroom apartment at market rent. Without jobs that pay livable wages and without access to affordable housing rates, these families will continue to remain in poverty. The SNAP program was designed to assist with that burden, so families didn’t have to choose between paying the rent and feeding their children.
Only 23 percent of poor families currently receive TANF. That means we have millions of poor and low wealth Americans who aren’t receiving any assistance or are just receiving food stamps. The assistance programs are not reaching the people who need them, so why take away benefits from the families who clearly need these benefits the most?
If our poor and low wealth continue to be stuck working full-time jobs that pay an unsustainable wage then they will not be able to afford to feed their families. They won’t be able to afford to pay their rent, health care, or education. They will end up trapped in this systemic poverty cycle because of elected officials trying to take away the little amount of assistance they may get that could possibly help them break the cycle.
The irony about this proposal is that the people that will be hurt the most by it are poor and low wealth white people. Yes, the majority of people who receive benefits from SNAP are white. In 2016, non-Hispanic whites made up 36.2 percent of the 44 million people who used SNAP — the largest share of any ethnic group. Blacks made up 25.6 percent of all recipients and Hispanics accounted for 17.2 percent of all recipients. A large portion of President Trump’s voter base is made up of white voters in rural America. Once again, Trump and his administration are putting policies in place that are going to hurt the very people who put him into office in the first place.
Make no mistake, this decision was deliberate. This administration knows that SNAP recipients are children, working families, senior citizens, and people with disabilities, many of whom, do receive additional assistance from TANF. But there are also millions of poor and low-income Americans who struggle to make ends meet daily and could use a program like SNAP to help alleviate some of that burden so they can break out of the poverty cycle.
Repairers of the Breach recognizes that and is determined to end the cycle of systemic poverty. We will not allow this administration to continue to oppress the poor and low wealth residents of this country. We will unite Americans from every corner of this nation together until the cycle of poverty is broken for every last person in this country.
Will you stand with us?
Repairers of the Breach is building a moral movement and is a cosponsor of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. To learn more about both, visit www.breachrepairers.org.