Durbin, Schakowsky: SNAP Benefits Provide Critical Safety New for Country's Most Vulnerable

[CHICAGO] – As the House of Representatives threatens to slash funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09) met today with SNAP beneficiaries and program advocates to discuss SNAP’s vital importance to the most vulnerable Americans.


“At a time when one out of every seven households struggles to keep food on the table, SNAP has responded by providing over 47 million Americans with essential help,” Durbin said.  “Food stamps meet a basic human need.  They are not the place we should be looking for drastic cuts, and yet last week we heard reports of House plans to gut the SNAP program.  The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation to make SNAP more efficient while protecting those who depend on it, and I oppose any proposal that weakens this vital safety net.  I hope House Republicans reverse course and take this more reasonable approach.”


"Hunger exists in every district in America,” Schakowsky said.  “The SNAP program is the difference between chronic hunger and a basic meal for 47 million Americans, including 17 million children.  However, Republicans are willing to make drastic cuts to a program which supports millions of American families.  In the wealthiest nation on earth, no one should go hungry and any cuts to this program will be an injustice to families and children who will lose critical nutrition assistance.


Earlier this month the House passed along party lines a farm bill which, for the first time since 1973, excluded SNAP entirely.  An earlier version of the House’s farm bill, which slashed SNAP funding by $20 billion, did not receive the support of the full Republican caucus and failed when it was brought for a vote.  A report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts found that the cuts in that bill would have eliminated 5.1 million individuals from the program, increasing poverty and driving up healthcare costs.  Even so, news leaked this week that Members are now negotiating a separate bill that would double even those steep cuts.  In contrast, the Senate’s farm bill, which passed on a bipartisan vote in June, includes modest reductions to improve SNAP’s efficiency while protecting those who depend on it for nutrition.


“SNAP recipients are our friends and neighbors,” Durbin said.  “They are children whose parents are struggling to make ends meet, seniors living on a limited income, hardworking people who earn low wages or can’t secure enough hours at work and men and women who lost their jobs or got sick.  For many, this program is the only way to feed their families.  We can either turn our backs on them, or give them the safety net they need to get back on their feet.”


More than half of the over 47 million Americans – including 2 million Illinoisans – who receive SNAP benefits are children or elderly.  Around 80 percent of SNAP households earn incomes below the poverty line.  In 58 percent of the SNAP households where someone in physically able to work, they do.  The average monthly benefit for a family of four is $489, or less than $1.50 per person per meal.


Spending on SNAP grew by about 135 percent between 2007 and 2011.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that trend will begin to reverse itself next year.  Fully 65 percent of SNAP spending growth is attributed to the increase in the number of people receiving benefits as a result of the recession.  Another 15 percent is due to factors like higher food prices and lower income among beneficiaries. 


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, every dollar in new SNAP benefits generates $1.80 in total economic impact.  A $1 billion increase in SNAP benefits is estimated to create or maintain 18,000 jobs.