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Massachusetts Snap Recipients Will Be Harmed By Farm Bill Heat And Eat Cuts

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) for 5 minutes.

Rep. Jim McGovern

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be voting on a 950-page-plus bill that no one has read. This is a bill, the farm bill, which was first made available to us late last evening.

To make matters even worse, Mr. Speaker, we are told that we will only have 1 hour of debate on this bill, and we are not even to have a rule on the bill. We are going to have a rule that incorporates the farm bill with an abortion bill. What they have to do with one another, I have no idea.

But it is clear what is going on here, and that is that the leadership of this House does not want anyone to know what is in that bill. One of the things that is in that bill, which I find reprehensible, is an $8.6 billion cut in the SNAP program.

The SNAP program exists to make sure that people in this country do not go hungry. On November 1, last November 1, a cut of $11 billion went into effect. The recovery moneys ran out. Congress did not renew them, so everybody on SNAP, all 47 million people, received a cut.

Food prices didn't go down. The economy hasn't gotten much better, but their food benefit went down. And their benefit is, on average, about $1.40 a meal per day. So those who think that this is some sort of generous benefit have no idea what they are talking about.

So we cut their benefit; and they are now ending up spending more time at food banks and food pantries, looking for ways to put food on their table so that their kids don't go hungry; and we bring a farm bill to the floor that cuts that program by another $8.6 billion.

Now, supporters of the farm bill say, well, really it could have been a lot worse. You should just be happy it is $8.6 billion. You should declare victory.

Well, those people who are going to be adversely impacted by that $8.6 billion cut don't feel a lot of victory.

Yes, it is targeted. It is targeted at those individuals who are on this so-called ``Heat and Eat'' program. These are poor people who get a little bump up in their benefit to put food on their table, mostly elderly people, mostly disabled people.

So we are going to go tell them that they are going to get significantly less a month in a food benefit, but the good news for them is there will be some that won't be adversely impacted. They should take some satisfaction in that.

We talk about numbers all the time. We talk about statistics. Let me read to you a couple of real life examples.

William, an elderly man from Salem, Massachusetts, currently receives $181 a month in SNAP. He lives in senior housing, where heat and utilities are included, but the rent exceeds 35 percent of his $802 a month supplemental Social Security income.

His SNAP benefit of $181 a month is based on the Heat and Eat option. He incurs other health-related expenses not covered by Medicaid, but he has had significant difficulty producing the detailed verification required by the State.

His current SNAP would be significantly reduced by more than $80 a month if he lost this Heat and Eat option.

Pamela, a severely disabled woman from Northborough, Massachusetts, currently receives $115 a month as SNAP benefits. She gets $1,007 in monthly Social Security disability benefits. In addition to other medical conditions, she is a diabetic and requires a special diet to meet her daily nutritional needs.

While she lives in public housing, she must pay for her own appliances and maintenance fees, including her air conditioning unit, essential to her health. She does not have a car, but uses her limited income for private transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping and pharmacy trips, as she is not near any public transportation.

With the loss of the Heat and Eat SNAP option, her SNAP benefit will be reduced by $100 a month, so from $115 to the minimum of $15 a month, significantly impacting her ability to maintain her special diet.

Let me say to my colleagues here, the cut that went into effect last November will cost the average family of three about $30 a month in benefits. Those who will be impacted by the cuts of this Heat and Eat program will lose an additional $80 to $90 a month. So their reduction in their monthly benefit for food should be between $120 and $130 a month.

Where are they going to find the food?

Who is going to make up the difference?

My colleagues on the Republican side say, well, they can go beg to the States; the States ought to do more; or if the States say no, go to the churches or the synagogues or the mosques. Maybe they will do more.

The bottom line is, if any of my colleagues took the time to go back to their districts and visit their food banks, they would realize they are at capacity. Food banks can't give out any more.

So I would urge my colleagues, vote against this farm bill. Do not make hunger worse in America.