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Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. BLACK. Madam Chairman, I rise today in support of reaffirming our commitment to upward mobility and greater opportunity for all Americans.

My amendment would express the sentiment of the House that the funding for the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, marketing and outreach program currently used to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, better known as ``food stamps,'' would instead be used to fund job training programs contained in the SKILLS Act. These precious taxpayer dollars should be used to facilitate upward mobility and employment, not dependence.

The USDA created an aggressive outreach program that has grown under the Obama administration, particularly through the President's stimulus package. These expanded initiatives include the collaboration between the USDA and Mexican Government officials to promote participation in targeted communities, which teaches recruiters how to convince working class families into public assistance and dependence.

The Obama administration has conducted over 30 meetings with the Mexican Government personnel since he took office. Since this program began in 2004, the United States taxpayer has funded this participation with the Mexican Government to promote the SNAP program by holding 29 health fairs and traveling to 19 cities.

The USDA, in coordination with the Mexican Government, has conducted an aggressive campaign issuing guidance to State and local agencies with a record 91 meetings focusing on growing the outreach program to expand enrollment in SNAP. None of these new meetings were used to point them in the direction of jobs training programs or employment searches that would offer much greater opportunity than whatever the Federal Government would have to offer.

I recently read through this 55-page document put out by the USDA, entitled, ``SNAP, Guidance on Non-Citizen Eligibility,'' that essentially explains every possible scenario for avenues of going about receiving SNAP assistance. These policies are in plain conflict with the financial health of the United States, and it fails to recognize that welfare reform is guided by the moral principle that good policy helps more people live better lives.

USDA has also used these outreach dollars to hand out a Hunger Champions award in 2011 to certain workers, which translated to a 10 percent increase in food stamp recipients in just one year.

Under the Obama administration, the number of food stamp recipients has jumped 46 percent, with one in six Americans living in poverty, and the administration still continues to undermine work requirements and effective job training.

We need to reaffirm our belief that we are a Nation of opportunity and not dependence. The government should not be promoting food stamps. The government should be using hard-earned taxpayer dollars to help those who are out of work to acquire skills for jobs that they want and to achieve the American Dream that they have for them and their families.

I would now like to enter into a colloquy with the gentleman that is the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, Mr. Lucas.

Mr. LUCAS. Will the gentlewoman yield?

Mrs. BLACK. I yield to the gentleman.

Mr. LUCAS. I appreciate the gentlelady from Tennessee's attempt at reform here. In fact, the farm bill passed by the Agriculture Committee last Congress accomplished the goal of her amendment by preventing USDA from promoting the SNAP program.

Our goal in Congress should not be getting more people on the SNAP rolls. Instead, we should be providing opportunities through increased economic growth and programs that facilitate upward movement, upward mobility to get people off the rolls.

I pledge to work with the gentlelady to include language in the farm bill we intend to bring to the floor later this year to accomplish her goals.

I thank her for her efforts.

Mrs. BLACK. I thank the chairman. I so appreciate your earnestness in working together in making sure that we do have upward mobility rather than dependence.

Madam Chair, I want to again thank the chairman for being willing to work with me on what I think is a very important issue of making sure that we help people with upward mobility.

With that, Madam Chair, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw my amendment.


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