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House Republicans Endeavor to Limit the Food Stamp Program

The House Republicans want to make changes to the food-stamps program now that America is out of the great recession. The program expanded sharply during the great recession. On February 25, the House Agriculture Committee will hold several hearings on food stamps, previously known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The effort is being led by Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R., Texas). He hints that any changes will be aimed at creating a smaller program with fewer recipients. He also wants to avoid any party politics that can tarnish an effort before it is proposed.

In an interview, Conaway stated, “A family that depends on their own work is more secure. There’s a dignity in taking care of yourself.” Currently, about 15 percent of the population or 46.5 million Americans receive benefits. This is double the number from a decade ago. Yet the costs have tripled from $27 billion in 2004 to $74 billion in 2014. Conaway has not made clear exactly what changes will be implemented. Right now, a family of four earning less than a monthly gross income of $2,584 can qualify. Douglas Besharov, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland states, “The program was structured when malnutrition was a real problem. It has now become a form of income support.”

The program got its start in the 1930s during the great depression and was made permanent in 1964. Over 20 states are preparing to reinstate time limits that were waived during the recession. USDA data shows that 43 percent of the recipients live in a household where someone is earning. Rep. Jim McGovern (D., Mass.) does not support cuts saying, "We cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor people." The Congressional Budget Office predicts the number of recipients will drop 30 percent to 33 million by 2025. Also, according to 2013 government data, more than 40 percent of recipients are able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 60.

Photo Credit: thefiscaltimes.com

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