SNAP program should get examination for real need

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a standalone bill that would cut about $4 billion annually from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The U.S. Senate in June passed a farm bill that would trim SNAP by about $400 million.

So it would appear both chambers believe the food stamp program is ready for some trimming after five years of tremendous growth. And while there is a big difference in proposed spending cuts that the House and Senate will have to work out politically, there are some proposed reforms that deserve serious consideration.

SNAP has grown considerably since the 2007 economic crash and the Great Recession that followed. One in seven Americans now receives food stamps. About 443,000 New Mexicans — almost one in four — receive the benefit.

In 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about $30.4 billion in federal money was spent on benefits alone for 26,316,000 recipients. The average benefit was $96.18 a month.

Last year, $74.6 billion was spent on benefits alone for 46,609,000 recipients. The average benefit was $133.41 a month.

The House bill would tighten eligibility rules and end the practice of allowing able-bodied adults who don’t have dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely.

It also would permit states to require drug testing for recipients and bar convicted murderers, rapists and pedophiles from receiving food stamps.

All these proposed reforms, which are expected to reduce spending by reducing the number of recipients, offer room for compromise.

While the nation was going through a period of lost jobs and increasing unemployment, the period an able-bodied person could qualify for assistance was extended, but it is unlikely Congress intended the waiver that permitted that to last forever.

It is debatable whether taxpayers should pay forever to feed anyone who could get a job and feed themselves.

SNAP is a safety net intended to assist the nation’s neediest. It made sense to extend its protections during a period of crisis, but as the nation struggles with debt, it is time to assess how it can continue to best help those truly in need.

— Albuquerque Journal

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