Legislative update:  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

By Irma Ruebling

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the program on which most of our Open Door Pantry neighbors depend.  The program is included in the Nutrition section within the Congressional Farm Bill. Congress is currently considering overhauling the requirements for the SNAP program used by 42 million Americans.  The proposed revision of SNAP has 2 main elements:

  1. Most adults between 18 and 59 will be required to work part-time or enroll in 20 hours per week of workforce training beginning in 2021to receive assistance. Pregnant women, people with disabilities, parents with children younger than 6 are exempt.    

  2. Mandates and massively expands the state training programs available to unemployed participants who cannot find jobs.

Proponents' position states the bill is a practical plan to protect the needy while also helping them become self-sufficient. Michael Conaway R Tex, House agriculture Chairman, stated, “breaking the poverty cycle is the only way forward.” 

Opponents' position states the bill would cut SNAP participation by as many as 1 million people over next 10 years, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates and does not consider the legitimate obstacles SNAP recipients face to enroll in these programs, such as unreliable transportation, low housing security, and shifting child care and medical schedules.

The House farm bill (H. R. 2) failed in the House of Representatives on Friday (May 18) after Freedom Caucus members withheld their votes in the hope of getting immigration legislation to the floor.

The Senate bill (S.3042) protects SNAP benefit levels and eligibility.  It builds on SNAP’s many strengths and avoids the negative changes in H.R. 2. Senate vote on the bill is expected before the July 4th recess.