Following the passage of the House Farm Bill, the Montana Budget and Policy Center released the following statement:
“The harsh and partisan farm bill the U.S. House passed this week would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by nearly $19 billion and take away food assistance from 2 million struggling Americans, including children, seniors, and veterans in Montana. We are disappointed to see Representative Gianforte support this bill that will make it harder for many parents to put food on the table for their families.
“The Senate has drafted a better approach: a bipartisan farm bill that protects and improves SNAP. We urge Senators Daines and Tester to support the bipartisan Senate farm bill and reject any harmful amendments that would incorporate provisions from the House bill or make changes that would take away food assistance from people who are struggling.”
What is in the House Farm Bill?
- The bill would expand SNAP’s already stringent rules that take food assistance away from people who do not work a set number of hours under new work requirements and apply those rules to more parents and older workers. When food assistance is taken away from parents who don’t meet work requirements, there isn’t enough money to buy food for the whole household, including children.
- The House farm bill would require participants ages 18-59 (with very narrow exemptions for some participants with disabilities or raising a child under 6) to prove — every month — that they’re working at least 20 hours a week, participating at least 20 hours a week in a work program, or a combination of the two. Those who couldn’t comply would face harsh sanctions, leaving many families unable to afford food for their families. The first sanction for non-compliance would mean a loss of the person’s share of the household benefit for a full year. Each later infraction would lock people out of SNAP for three years.
- Amendments approved on the House floor when the bill was first considered made the bill more extreme. The House-passed bill would make it still harder for states to obtain waivers from work-related requirements for areas with high unemployment. In Montana, 25 counties and six Indian reservations have been granted the geographic waiver areas because these areas have an insufficient number of jobs to provide employment.
- Low-income workers are often facing unpredictable hours or work standards by employers, leaving them at risk of losing assistance when they most need it. Here are a few examples:
- If a working mom doesn’t have sick leave, she could lose her job if she misses work to care for a sick child or faces a medical emergency. And then she could lose her SNAP food assistance right when she needs it most.
- A 55 year-old cashier was recently laid off has trouble finding a new job because stores only want to hire younger workers. He often has to take his wife to doctor appointments during the day, making finding new work increasingly difficult. He is locked out from his benefits while looking for work.
- A young father had plenty of work in a local fly-fishing shop during the height of Montana’s tourism season. But when the weather grew colder, his shifts were cut in half and he lost his benefits. He was able to pick up some more work during the holiday season, but in January his shifts were cut again, making him lose his benefits again.
- The House SNAP changes would set a high standard for people with disabilities or other health conditions, such as mental illness, to prove they cannot work steadily. Those who face health issues, and those who care for them, risk losing food assistance because of the difficulty of documenting that they qualify for an exemption each month.
Read our Farm Bill Series to dig into the details of the harsh SNAP work requirements and why the House Farm Bill won’t help Montana’s economy or our working families.