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DelBene introduces legislation to protect children, families from nutrition cuts
The following is a release from the staff of Congresswoman Suzan DelBene:
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene introduced amendments to the Farm Bill that would save free school meals and update eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) while also reducing the federal deficit. Currently, H.R. 1947, the Farm Bill, cuts $20.5 billion from nutrition programs like SNAP, which would result in nearly two million people losing SNAP benefits altogether and more than 210,000 children losing access to free school meals.
“The cuts currently proposed in the Farm Bill will have lasting, damaging impacts to millions of working families, children and seniors,” said DelBene. “With so many still struggling in a difficult economy, now is not the time to turn away those who are in need. My amendments will help schoolchildren stay healthy and parents put food on the table for their families.”
To ensure that hundreds of thousands of children still receive free school meals, DelBene introduced an amendment to ensure that households with children who currently receive SNAP retain their eligibility for benefits, meaning children who are eligible for free school meals would remain eligible.
Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits and positive effects of students of having complete, healthy meals in schools. This amendment not only allows children to keep their eligibility for free school meals, but ensures that their families will still be able to provide them with a meal when they get home.
DelBene’s second amendment would implement broader reforms with long overdue updates to eligibility policies. Under traditional SNAP eligibility, households must pass income and asset tests. SNAP households may have a gross income at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level and only $2,000 in assets. However, many states have increased the asset limit and raised the gross income test to varying levels, creating an inconsistent patchwork of standards, resulting in families of the same means being eligible for SNAP in one state, but not another. The current Farm Bill eliminates states’ ability to increase the income limit or the asset limit outright, which would cause millions of working families to lose eligibility.
The amendment would raise the income limit to 160 percent of the federal poverty level. It would also raise the asset limit from $2,000 to $4,000. The asset limit has not been adjusted for inflation in more than twenty-five years and has fallen 53 percent in real buying terms since 1986. Finally, it would eliminate the consideration of vehicles as an eligibility standard.
Both amendments are fully paid for in accordance with House rules, and any leftover savings would be used for deficit reduction.
The House is expected to take up the full Farm Bill this week.
Additionally, DelBene has successfully included in the current Farm Bill passed out of the Agriculture Committee $30 million in funding for an innovative pilot program to encourage states to provide targeted employment and training programs similar to Washington State’s Basic Food Education & Training program (BFET).