Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. toured the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ) this afternoon with CFBNJ President & CEO Kathleen DiChiara, New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak, and Hillside Councilwoman Angela Garretson [pictured below] and held a press conference on the impacts the House Farm Bill will have on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. Remarks Prepared for Delivery:
"As we speak, 1 in 10 New Jersey residents receive SNAP benefits. That's more than 860,000 people in the state of New Jersey alone. And of these SNAP recipients, 45 percent of them are children, 20 percent are elderly, and 10 percent are disabled. They need SNAP to live.
"But the survival of New Jersey's families, children, and seniors is in jeopardy. This month, the House is expected to bring a Farm Bill to the floor that would cut SNAP by almost $21 billion and cut nearly 2 million people who are eligible from the program.
"These cuts are wrong, they are immoral, and they're plain shameful. This isn't about cleaning up waste, fraud, or abuse. It's about pulling the rug out from under people that some of my colleagues deem "takers" or "freeloaders."
"But the truth is these cuts would hurt the most vulnerable in our communities. There are so many misconceptions about SNAP. SNAP is not just some unlimited handout for people who are sitting at home doing nothing. Currently, there are 6 million people on SNAP who work -- but even though they work, they might make minimum wage, and they still live grossly below the poverty line.
"These cuts will not only take food away from hungry people, but what is most heart-wrenching about the bill -- it takes food away from our kids. Because of these cuts 200,000 kids will no longer receive a free lunch during their school day.
"Unfortunately, the most likely result will be that many of these kids will not eat lunch at all. This will affect their nutrition, their physical and cognitive development, and it will affect their concentration and ability to learn in school. These cuts are literally stunting the physical and educational growth of our young people.
"To add insult to injury, the bill's cuts would be compounded on top of the already across-the-board cuts set to take effect in November. Starting in November, a family of 4 will receive 25 dollars less a month, and this bill will skim another 90 dollars off the top.
"One-hundred-and-fifteen dollars may not seem like very much to the people who are making these cuts. But when we are already asking a recipient on SNAP to live on just $4.50 a day, 115 dollars may mean the difference between buying groceries or paying rent.
"Food banks like Community FoodBank of New Jersey, food pantries, churches, synagogues and mosques can't handle the impact of these cuts, and the sequester is actually already forcing many of these food banks to close.
"This is unacceptable. As a member of Congress, I am here to serve the people in my communities -- and that means EVERYONE. We have to protect our most vulnerable and those most in need."
Background Information on CFBNJ & SNAP:
CFBNJ is New Jersey's largest food bank, distributing 40 million pounds of food a year to more than 1,000 non-profit programs, as well as more than 400 programs served by its Partner Distribution Organizations (PDOs). Through those combined efforts, CFBNJ feeds 900,000 hungry people in across New Jersey. However, the House Farm Bill, which is expected to be on the House floor this summer, will greatly inhibit CFBNJ's ability to feed hungry families and children across the state.
The House Farm Bill would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) by almost $20.5 billion over the next decade and would cut nearly 2 million people who are eligible from the program. To add insult to injury, the bill's cuts would be in addition to the already across-the-board cuts set to start on November 1, 2013, as a result of the expiration of increased benefits from the stimulus bill (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act). While the bill would make deep cuts to SNAP, the number of those qualifying for the program is on the rise. In just one year, from December 2011 to December 2012, the number of New Jerseyans on SNAP increased by 9.5%.
The cuts would be a devastating blow to low-income New Jersey families, many of whom are working families with children and elderly seniors. New Jersey is the fourth most expensive rental market in the country; minimum wage in New Jersey is just $7.25 an hour; and the unemployment rate is 8.7% -- higher than the national average at 7.5%.