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July 31, 2018

Senate preserves core of SNAP program in its farm bill

The Senate passed its version of the farm bill June 28 without including controversial new work requirements like those in the House bill for those who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

H.R. 2, as amended and passed by the Senate by an 86-11 vote, would leave the core of the SNAP program in place but create pilot projects to find ways to improve the income-verification process for program eligibility.

The House version of the bill, passed June 21, includes provisions requiring able-bodied adults ages 18 to 59 who are not disabled or caring for young children to work or participate in job training programs to qualify for SNAP benefits. The provisions also would limit the availability of SNAP benefits based on receipt of benefits from other federal programs for low-income individuals.  

During floor debate on the bill, senators spoke against changes to the SNAP program.

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) emphasized that the farm bill works when all three pillars of the bill work together: traditional farm programs, rural development, and nutrition. She noted that the nutrition programs are of vital importance. “If we remove one of those pillars, the farm bill will not be able to stand,” she said.

The senators tabled an amendment that would have limited SNAP benefits for able-bodied adults to one month out of every 36 months if a recipient failed to work at least part-time or participate in a training program.  Opponents of the amendment argued that the legislation already included state pilot projects intended to help move people from SNAP to work.

The ABA expressed opposition to SNAP work-requirement proposals in letters sent June 12 to House leadership and members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

In the letters, ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman pointed out that approximately 41.2 million Americans, including 28.3 million adults and 12.9 million children, live in food-insecure households. The proposed cuts for the SNAP program, he said, will result in many citizens facing hunger and malnourishment.

Susman said the association understands that difficult choices must be made to reach balanced federal spending policies, but he said SNAP cuts would result in “failure to support millions of American families and children in maintaining the basic necessity of adequate food and nutrition.” He added that the ABA also has concerns about the impact of the restrictions on rehabilitated felons who need SNAP benefits for successful reentry to the community.

A conference committee will be meeting to work out the differences between the two versions of the farm legislation.

Back to July 2018 Washington Letter