Our Statement on H R 2

The Des Moines Area Religious Council supports a bipartisan Farm Bill and opposes some proposed changes to SNAP which are included in the House Republican Farm Bill (H R 2), specifically those having to do with expanding the existing work requirements and eliminating categorical eligibility. While we do not oppose work requirements in theory, we believe the proposed changes will do more harm than good.

The truth is, most SNAP recipients who are able to work DO work – only 14% of all families receiving SNAP benefits in Iowa’s third congressional district as of January 2018 had no workers in the family during the past 12 months.

People living in poverty struggle with monumental decisions every day. Do I fill my prescription, or fill the gas tank of my car? Do I pay my utilities bill, or purchase groceries for my family? Do I get a part-time job, or will it be cheaper to stay at home watching the kids instead of paying for child care?

At the DMARC Food Pantry Network, we serve people facing such choices every day. In April, we served over 16,000 individuals in Greater Des Moines, 37% of them children. At a time when visits to our Food Pantry Network have seen four straight months of double-digit percent increases, the last thing people living with food insecurity in our community need is cuts or punitive changes to SNAP.

We know from experience what happens when SNAP benefits are cut. In November, 2013, a temporary boost to SNAP benefits that were part of the 2009 Recovery Act ended. This resulted in a decrease in benefits for nearly every household on SNAP. And at the DMARC Food Pantry Network, we saw a 20% increase in use at our food pantries in the following year.

If these proposed changes to SNAP were implemented, the math is simple. Some people will lose SNAP benefits, and DMARC will see an increase in traffic at our local food pantries of people seeking assistance to help make ends meet.

Please contact your Representative today and let them know you want a bipartisan Farm Bill.

Rep. David Young: (202) 225-5476

For more details on our concerns, please download our talking points or continue reading below.

Work Requirements

Work requirements largely already exist for SNAP. Currently in Iowa, people ages 18-49 that the government classifies as “able-bodied adults without dependents,” or ABAWDs, are required to work or attend a training program at least 20 hours per week.

The proposed changes in the House Republican Farm Bill would expand these work requirements to all SNAP recipients ages 18-59, with exceptions for people with a disability or taking care of a child age six or under. Essentially, these changes would now require Iowans ages 50-59 and those with children ages 6-18 who don’t currently meet work requirements to comply, or lose their benefits.

H R 2 also requires monthly employment verification, with punitive measures for non-compliance, from those required to work. This process will be overwhelming and tedious, both for states to administer and for program participants to navigate. This burdensome process will in fact be a barrier to individuals who are employed and trying to access SNAP benefits for which they qualify.

Looking at our Food Pantry Network data from January 1, 2018 – April 30, 2018, we can see:

  • 30,952 unique individuals
  • Of these, 5,401 individuals (17%) receive SNAP and, because of their age, would be subject to proposed work requirements
  • Of the 30,952, only 281 individuals were age 50-59 and not currently working, and only 63 individuals were age 18-59, the caretaker of a child over the age of six, and not currently working – a total of 344 individuals

5,401 current SNAP recipients in our Network would be subject to stricter work requirements with a burdensome monthly employment verification, all in an effort to move 344 unemployed individuals who currently receive SNAP benefits into work or job training program.

We are also concerned about the amount of funding for and timeline of expanding state workforce training programs. The 2014 Farm Bill established pilot projects in 10 states to test the effectiveness of different education and training programs. We should wait for results before making major changes.

Categorical Eligibility

We are also concerned by the elimination of categorical eligibility, disallowing states from expanding eligibility for SNAP beyond the 130% FPL threshold. Up to two million people could lose their SNAP benefits as a result.

We do not believe that 130% FPL is an adequate income to no longer need to rely on SNAP, and categorical eligibility has allowed states like Iowa to mitigate some aspects of the “cliff effect” by increasing the threshold to 160% FPL.

Looking at our Food Pantry Network data from January 1, 2018 – April 30, 2018, we can see:

  • 857 individuals had household income between 130-160% FPL and benefited from SNAP and yet still didn’t have enough to eat
  • 32% of these individuals were children

These 850 people are just a small sample of the millions who would be affected by this change.

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