Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) today met with hunger-relief advocates at the Oregon Food Bank West to discuss how proposed cuts to federal nutrition assistance programs will increase the already great burden faced by families and hunger-relief programs in Oregon. Congress recently considered and failed to pass a farm bill that included a $20 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Next week a major cut to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will be brought forward for a vote in the House.
"We should focus on cutting poverty, not cutting nutrition assistance," said Bonamici. "Families in Oregon and across the country rely on programs like WIC and SNAP to put food on the table. More cuts to these programs won't make their needs disappear. Local food banks will have to step in and they're already stretched thin. By cutting nutrition assistance instead of working to improve the economy and create jobs, we're treating the symptoms, not the problem."
Next week Congress will consider the Fiscal Year 2014 Agriculture Appropriations bill, which contains severe cuts to WIC. Estimates show that approximately 200,000 mothers and infants could be removed from the program if the cuts become law. According to the National WIC Association, cuts already in effect because of sequestration removed 600,000 participants, including 7,600 in Oregon, from the program in 2013.
In June, Bonamici voted for an amendment to restore $20 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding slated to be cut by the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (The Farm Bill, H.R. 1947). The amendment failed and the bill was eventually defeated - in part because of the drastic nature of the SNAP cuts. These cuts would have ended assistance for about 90,000 Oregon families. SNAP cuts are likely to be considered again as Congressional leaders work to rewrite the bill.
Bonamici has worked tirelessly to block cuts to nutrition assistance. She has cosponsored a resolution, H.Res. 90, in opposition to a reduction in the availability or amount of benefits provided under SNAP. She is also a cosponsor of the Food Security Improvement Act, H.R. 2384, which would change the formula used to calculate SNAP benefits in a way that would increase benefits for families and individuals. Bonamici also signed a letter to the House Appropriations committee requesting full funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Another letter she signed requested a restoration of WIC funding.
SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. Eligibility for the program is limited to households with a gross income of no more than 130 percent of the federal poverty line. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 76 percent of households receiving SNAP include a child, elderly person, or disabled person. The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744.
WIC is a program geared toward low-income women, infants, and children. It provides supplemental, nutrient rich foods; nutrition education and counseling; and breast feeding promotion and support. WIC benefits are redeemable for a list of nutrient-rich foods specific to the participant's eligibility category and medical needs.