Two democratic San Antonio Congressmen — Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio — are speaking out against the proposed Farm Bill and cuts to the supplemental nutrition assistance program, also known as SNAP.
The bill would introduce stricter work requirements and reduce the amount of money provided to recipients.
Castro and Doggett appeared at the San Antonio Food Bank along with Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper Monday to detail how the bill would be detrimental to needy recipients of SNAP.
Democratic critics say the current version of the Farm Bill could potentially cut SNAP benefits by $20 billion over 10 years — an estimate disputed by Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee. A House vote on the farm bill could come this week.
SNAP benefits go by many names, including food stamps, Electronic Benefits Transfer, or here in Texas, the Lone Star Card. In Bexar County, there are approximately 300,000 people receiving benefits. Statewide, it's about 3.7 million people. The Texas Department of Health and Human services said it distributed $421 million in SNAP benefits to Texans this past April. Each SNAP household in Texas received an average $264 per month.
Doggett said the bill included major pushes from House Speaker Paul Ryan as Ryan finishes his final year in Congress.
“He’s always wanted to have cutbacks in this area and other public assistance programs so there’s a lot on the line for him here,” he said.
The changes in the farm bill include requiring “work capable adults” ages 18-59 to work at least 20 hours per week or participate in an equal amount of job training to qualify for SNAP benefits.
“America needs a Farm Bill to lay the framework for the agriculture producers and American consumers,” said Congressman Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in a statement via email. “The bill takes meaningful steps to encourage able-bodied and work age individuals to move from the SNAP program into the workforce while ensuring that the neediest still receive SNAP benefits as the program was designed.”
Castro said there’s misconception that SNAP recipients are not in the labor force. He said many are working, and cutting benefits will make it harder for those working families to put food on the table.
“These are often times working people who work in jobs where the wages are not high enough to support themselves and their family members,” Castro said.
If the cuts go through and benefits are reduced for some individuals, Cooper said that could put a bigger strain on organizations like the Food Bank, which provides additional food to the recipients.
“I think ultimately the farm bill cuts are going to be bad for the poor,” he said.
Joey Palacios can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @joeycules.