July 29, 2014

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House passes farm bill that cuts out food stamps

As executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, Juliana Chase Morefield has closely followed the fight over the farm bill in the House of Representatives.

Nonetheless, Chase-Morefield said she was shocked when House Republicans on Thursday cut the food stamp program from the bill to get it passed.

The $80 billion annual program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, had comprised about 80 percent of spending in the House’s version of the bill.

The bill was defeated last month partially because of House Republicans, who have the majority, wanting deeper cuts than the $21 billion planned over 10 years.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, has previously proposed cutting $134 billion over 10 years.

Since the Great Recession in 2007, food stamp use has reached record numbers. In April, 47.5 million Americans were using food stamps, according to the Department of Agriculture, which runs the program.

About 1.8 million Ohioans, including about 42,000 in Lorain County, use food stamps.

Chase Morefield said when their food stamps run out before the end of the month, poor people turn to food pantries, which have already been overwhelmed by growing hunger in America.

Chase Morefield said Second Harvest, which serves 64 food pantries in Lorain County in addition to 44 pantries in Crawford, Erie and Huron counties, will be devastated by food stamp cuts. She said food stamps cover a maximum of $130 worth of food per month, and cuts could make some people go hungry.

“This isn’t somebody else somewhere else,” she said. “These are people who utilize this to help feed their kids (or) senior citizens who are putting food on their table.”

Republicans faced significant opposition to the plan from Democrats, farm groups and conservative groups that threatened to use the vote against GOP members in future campaigns.

Only 12 Republicans voted against the new measure and no Democrats voted for it.

Republicans said the food stamp part of the legislation would be dealt with separately at a later date, and Cantor said after the vote that Republicans would “act with dispatch” to get that legislation to the floor. President Barack Obama had threatened to veto the House bill if it reached his desk.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a farm bill last month with only a half-percent cut to food stamps and would be reluctant to go along with a split bill or further cuts to the programs. After House passage, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., called the bill “an insult to rural America.”

Chase Morefield said Republican tactics are “very partisan” and would hurt poor people trying to rebound from the recession and tepid recovery. U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, who voted for the bill, disagreed.

Gibbs said money for advertising and workers to run the program would be cut as well as no longer allowing people receiving heating assistance to automatically get food stamps. “I just want to make sure the people who need it are getting it,” he said.

Gibbs, who said he was getting off a plane when reached by The Chronicle-Telegram, also said there was fraud in the program, but was unable to cite any fraud statistics or the sources of the fraud reports at the time of the call. Gibbs said the program was growing too much in recent years, but conceded growth was largely tied to the high unemployment rate which was 7.6 percent nationally in May.

Gibbs accused Democrats of a “charade” for saying food stamp cuts will make poor people go hungry.

However, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, whose district includes Lorain, said it was a legitimate concern. In an email statement, Kaptur said the bill is, “literally taking food out of the mouths of babes and children, and their grandparents. Who could be proud of this?”

Chronicle reporter Evan Goodenow contributed to this story.

  • Phil Blank

    Obama threatens veto on farm bill.

  • Phil Blank

    I can see the crime rate increasing.

  • Angelboys

    Typical Republican move…..go ahead, stop the program—tell you what, just shut it down completely. Dont they realize how many elderly and families who use this program (in secret). Probably MOST of your neighbors use an EBT card (in secret). In America the poor are the enemy.

  • billgreg65

    I work in retail and most of the folks I see using the EBT card anymore are also carrying louis vuitton hand bags. I’m sorry this program is temporarily on hold but trust me when I say there was a ton on misuse which is sad. And why is this in a farm bill to begin with?

    • Bob Owens

      And they are probably the $5 versions at the Dollar Store.

  • ann

    most poor people would not go hungry if they utilized their stamps properly, I hear of them being sold for cash, I had a neighbor who would sell 500 stamps for 250 and get drugs, then spend the rest of the month at food pantries, taking food that rightfully wasn’t deserved! When I was down and out I recieved 120 a month and believe me I made it last! Sure I wasn’t eating fabulous meals but I had food!

    • Ladalang

      So true! I’m in line with bargain items and the person in front of me is buying steaks and luxury items us working folks can’t afford on my tax nickle. I say it shouldn’t be food stamps. It should be a food line. Two loaves of bread, flour, cheese, butter, chicken, fresh vegetables and milk. Nothing processed just cheap staples. We shouldn’t make it better to be on food stamps than working and buying your own food. It’s out of control! Yes food stamps are traded for money. Make them stand in a food line! Make it suck to be on food stamps.

  • Choosana

    I also work in retail and have seen way too much abuse. People are using up EBT on things even I can’t afford-like expensive meats,single bakery items over $100 and then running to food pantry to feed family after card runs out. It’s a corrupt system and needs overhaul. I’m not saying cut it, I’m saying make it harder to abuse it. Drug testing, work in food pantry or day care, seek education…etc. Elderly-that’s a different story. If you are able-bodied to get to store and push a cart, you can get a job.

  • Bob Owens

    There is $194 BILLION in corporate and farm subsidies(Welfare) to companies that are extremely successful. Talk about hypocrisy. Maybe if the right would focus on JOBS and less on uteruses, this wouldn’t be the case. Don’t blame it on Obama.

    • billgreg65

      I thought unemployment was on the rise under the Obama Administration. If this is truly the case then why are jobs mentioned?

  • Ladalang

    You aren’t supposed to feed the bears because they will stop looking for food and become dependent on people to survive. We use more common sense with bears than we do humans.

    • billgreg65

      Well stated. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day!

  • Mary spots

    Here is a first step in cost cutting for food stamps. Stop advertising in Mexico.

  • Deacon

    Our government will send all kinds of aid overseas but take away assistance to our own who are down on their luck. What a shame.