- The Progressive Pulse - http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org -

U.S. House pays for increased defense spending by cutting food stamps

During last summer’s hard-won debt deal, President Obama and Congressional leaders agreed to a set of spending cuts designed to reduce the Federal budget deficit, including a $54.7 billion reduction in defense spending for FY2013.

Nine months later, however, leaders in the U.S. House are set to renege [1] on this agreement by reversing the scheduled defense cuts and making up the resulting short-fall by making an additional $34 billion cut over the next ten years to the Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—otherwise known as food stamps—a program that was explicitly exempted from the spending cuts outlined in the original debt deal due to their disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable.

These cuts will prove devastating to low- and moderate-income families that rely on this assistance to adequately feed their families.  As Politico reports [2]:

“An average family of four would face an 11 percent cut in monthly benefits after Sept. 1 and, even more important, tighter enforcement of rules would require that households exhaust most of their liquid assets before qualifying for help. This hits hardest among the long-term unemployed, who would be forced off the rolls until they have spent down their savings to less than $2,000 in many cases.”

In North Carolina, food stamps—or called Food & Nutrition Services here—have been a vital lifeline for families during the Great Recession and the ensuing weak recovery.  As a Budget & Tax Center brief shows [3], the number of individuals receiving food stamps has nearly doubled since December 2007 or the start of the recession.  As of February 2012, over 1.6 million—or nearly 1 in 5–North Carolinians are receiving a modest food stamp benefit to feed themselves and their families.  Meanwhile, hunger continues to rise in the state and 1 in 4 children are in poverty.

Along with these reductions in SNAP, legislation moving through the House Ways & Means Committee will also cut [1] an additional $20 billion from an array of other important safety net programs, including the Child Tax Credit and the Social Services Block Grant, a program that provides funding to local and state governments to provide social assistance to low- and middle income families.

Louisa Warren contributed to this report.