At a time when millions of Americans are reeling from recent cuts to food stamp benefits and food banks are struggling to fill in the gaps, the Obama administration cited the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as a key tool in the battle against poverty.
According to a report released Tuesday, 5 million Americans would have fallen into poverty if not for the food assistance they received through SNAP, a number that includes 2.2 million children.
Altogether, nearly 48 million Americans collect food stamps – a near-record high and the result of continuing growth that started during the recession and has yet to subside. About 15 percent of Americans are considered “food insecure,” according to a recent Agriculture Department report.
The White House report comes at Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are wrangling over even deeper cuts to the program than the reductions that took effect on Nov. 1. Those cuts were the result of an expiring stimulus provision that temporarily boosted benefits for all food stamp recipients. Those cuts meant a family of four would see benefits fall $36 per month, although total benefit amounts vary state by state.
To see how many people are affected and how the cuts will be felt in each state, see Stateline’s 50-state interactive infographic here.
The broader debate over food stamps is part of congressional negotiations over the farm bill. House Republicans have backed a $40 billion cut over the next 10 years that could end benefits entirely for millions of Americans, among other changes. They argue the program’s growth is unsustainable and that enrollment should be pared as the economy improves.
The White House report Tuesday blasts the GOP approach, calling the proposed cuts “unnecessary and harsh.”
Democrats in the Senate, meanwhile, have backed $4 billion in reductions that would have a lesser impact on food stamp recipients.