By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The recent passage of a House bill to cut billions of dollars from federal food stamp programs will “take food from the mouths of almost four million of our fellow citizens,” charged US Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who argued unsuccessfully against the measure.
Velazquez (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook-Williamsburg) was among several Democrats in the New York delegation speaking out against the Sept. 19 vote to eliminate $39 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The bill passed by a 217-210 margin. No Democrats voted for the legislation. Fifteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill.
Velazquez, who spoke on the House floor in opposition, said the cut in funding will hurt the nation’s most vulnerable. “Who are these Americans? Nearly half of them are children. They are seniors. They are our veterans. Is this the way to thank them for their service?” she asked.
Velazquez said that while she is aware that the sharply divided congress does not agree on much of anything, “I've always assumed we could at least support the idea that in this country no child should go hungry.”
The Hill, a publication covering Capitol Hill, reported that the cuts would take effect over the course of 10 years. But The Hill also reported that the legislation was unlikely to become law since it would be dead on arrival in the Democratic controlled senate.
The New York Times reported that in addition to the cuts, the bill, crafted by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), would require adults between the ages of 18 and 50 who do not have children to find jobs in order to remain on the program.
US Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Coney Island-Bensonhurst-parts of Manhattan) called he SNAP program, “an effective, short-term anti-poverty program designed to help families stay on their feet when they face tough times and to ensure seniors and individuals with disabilities have access to the food they need.”
It’s not as if recipients are able to afford eating in fancy restaurants with the government assistance, Nadler said. “On average, SNAP recipients receive about $4.80 a day for food. I imagine very few of my colleagues can honestly say they can feed themselves, let alone their families, every day for that amount of money,” Nadler said.
“The majority claims this bill will increase incentives for SNAP recipients to work. That claim belies the fact that millions of Americans who do work still rely on SNAP to meet their needs,” Nadler said.
SNAP recipients will be hit hard by a reduction in benefits scheduled to take effect in November, according to US Rep. Yvette Clarke.
“Our food assistance program constitutes a promise to the families and children of America that every person would have the opportunity to eat. These reductions in SNAP violate that promise, out commitment that we will not allow children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities to starve,” Clarke (D-Brownsville-Crown Heights) said.
SNAP provides assistance to more than 47 million Americans. Nearly two-thirds of those enrolled in the program are children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.
“I am particularly concerned that the elimination of food assistance will prevent many children from obtaining adequate nutrition for their physical development and academic achievement. Studies have demonstrated that children who enter the classroom without a proper breakfast or lunch have difficulty concentrating on their lessons,” Clarke said.
US Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Staten Island) was one of the 15 Republicans voting against the cuts. Grimm cited Hurricane Sandy victims as his reason for voting no.
"I have a lot of Sandy victims who have never been on assistance ever in their life. And a lot of these hard-working families have lost everything, and for the first time, they're needing food stamps,” Grimm told The Hill.