Today, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a five year FARM bill that cuts basic food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $8 billion.
According to the most recent United States Department of Agriculture data, over 180,800 Rhode Islanders participated in SNAP in October 2013. Additionally, a report issued by the nonprofit Rhode Island Kids Count estimates that, in October 2012, there were over 66,900 children enrolled in SNAP and 37% of the children enrolled were under the age of six.
After the vote, Congressman Cicilline issued the following statement:
"I am disappointed the Republican led House of Representatives today cut critical food aid that will put many Rhode Island working families and children at risk of going hungry. Instead of spreading the burden of reduced spending, the FARM bill tragically places the lions share on the backs of a small few. What makes this particularly egregious is that this bill, which cuts billions for those in desperate need, would preserve a loophole that allows the wealthiest farmers in the country to continue receiving crop subsidies."
Cicilline noted that the bill targets cold weather states, like Rhode Island, where the SNAP program has worked to provide critical benefits to families facing both food and high heating or housing costs, known as "Heat and Eat. ""Heat and Eat' helps states coordinate assistance programs and leverage funding from SNAP and LIHEAP so no family has to decide what's more important for their child -- a good nutritious meal or a warm home. Only sixteen states administer "Heat and Eat' programs, including Rhode Island. At a time of record-breaking cold and incredibly high heating costs, we need to do more to help the most vulnerable among us," Cicilline stated.
Within the 16 states that would be negatively impacted by this provision in the bill, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 850,000 households would see their benefits cut by an average of about $90 a month impacting 1.7 million people.