Congressman Jim McGovern

Representing the 2nd District of Massachussetts
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McGovern: One Million Americans Struggling to Find Work Should Not Be Cut Off From Food Assistance

Apr 20, 2016
Press Release
60,000 Veterans Among Poorest Americans Hit By Cuts, Average Income of Americans Losing Food Assistance is $3,400 a Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With up to one million of the poorest Americans at risk of losing food assistance in 2016, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) spoke on the House floor today to urge Republicans in Congress and in states across the country to come together with Democrats to reverse these devastating cuts. Click here for video of today’s speech.

These Americans are at risk of losing their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits because a provision in the 1996 welfare reform law goes back into effect this year that limits adults working less than 20 hours a week or not enrolled in a job training program can only receive three months of SNAP in a 36-month period.

As Congressman McGovern noted, the problem is “many areas of the country haven’t fully recovered from the recession” and for many individuals “there are no open jobs and worker training slots are all full… for individuals who have been searching for a job for months, who have applied to every job posting they’ve seen, and who can’t get into a job training program because the wait list is too long, they’re punished.”

McGovern added that, “SNAP operated like it was supposed to during the recession. It expanded to meet the needs of the millions who lost their jobs, of middle-class families who never imagined they’d need food assistance in the first place. And now, as our economy improves, fewer people need the assistance. But we’re not there yet.”

“Cutting 1 million of the poorest Americans off from food assistance is wrong. Increasing hunger is wrong,” McGovern concluded. “Rather than demonize the poor and diminish their struggle, we ought to come together to help, not hurt people. We ought to end hunger now. This war on the poor has to stop.”

Click here for video of today’s speech.

Full Text of Today’s Floor Speech:

“On April 1st, thousands of poor Americans started losing their SNAP – or food stamp – benefits.

“All told, over the course of this year as many as one million adults will be cut off from SNAP. That’s because one of the harshest provisions of the 1996 welfare reform law says that adults working less than 20 hours a week or not enrolled in a job training program can only receive three months of SNAP in a 36-month period. The problem is, however, that many areas of the country haven’t fully recovered from the recession. There are no open jobs and worker training slots are all full.

“The economic recovery has been uneven across the country. And for many individuals, through no fault of their own, getting back to work has been difficult.

“At the height of the recession, governors across the country – both Democratic and Republican – asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow them to temporarily waive work requirements and provide SNAP benefits to unemployed childless adults for longer periods of time. But now, some governors are refusing to extend those work waivers, even in areas of their states with high unemployment.

“For a million of the poorest Americans to lose food assistance in the midst of this is unconscionable.

“We’re talking about the poorest of the poor. These are childless adults whose income averages 29 percent of the poverty line – or about $3,400 a year. A year. No one can live on that.

“Many face multiple barriers to employment including disability, limited education, and chronic homelessness. Their employment can be sporadic – often cycling in and out of low-wage jobs with unpredictable hours that do not lift them out of poverty.

“What’s most appalling is that about 60,000 of those who will but cut off from SNAP this year are veterans. That’s right, these are the brave men and women who stood up to protect our country and now we don’t have the decency to help them put food on the table when they come home.

“We should be ashamed.

“Let me be clear about something – the 3 month limit on childless adults receiving SNAP is not a work requirement, despite what some of my Republican colleagues say. It’s a time limit. There’s no requirement that states offer work or job training to those who are about to lose their benefit. There’s nothing here that incentivizes work. Rather it penalizes those who are struggling the most.

“Work requirements in other federal assistance programs typically require people to look for work or accept any job or job training slot that’s offered but do not cut off people who are willing to work and are looking for a job simply because they can’t find one.

“But that’s not the case with SNAP.

“So for individuals who have been searching for a job for months, who have applied to every job posting they’ve seen, and who can’t get into a job training program because the wait list is too long, they’re punished. And study after study shows that the longer someone is unemployed, the harder it is to get hired. It is baffling to me that the Republicans’ answer to them is “sorry, you’re out of luck.”

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that it takes someone who is unemployed about 6 months of looking to find a job. That’s twice as long as the 3-month time limit.

“For the life of me, I can’t understand how making someone hungrier helps them find a job faster. We should be making people’s lives better, not harder.

“This notion that some on the Republican side peddle that somehow SNAP is this overly generous program that people are just jumping to get into is false.

“The average SNAP benefit is $1.40 per meal per day. That’s meager. It is inadequate.

“And this idea that SNAP is the root of our budget problems is outrageous. New data released from the Treasury Department just last week shows that SNAP spending is falling. In the first half of the current fiscal year, SNAP spending was at its lowest level since 2010. Not only that, but SNAP caseloads are falling too. That is due to the improving economy.

“SNAP operated like it was supposed to during the recession. It expanded to meet the needs of the millions who lost their jobs, of middle-class families who never imagined they’d need food assistance in the first place. And now, as our economy improves, fewer people need the assistance. But we’re not there yet.

“Cutting 1 million of the poorest Americans off from food assistance is wrong. Increasing hunger is wrong.

“And I would say to the Republican leadership of this House that the narrative you have put forward about those in poverty does not reflect the reality. Rather than demonize the poor and diminish their struggle, we ought to come together to help, not hurt people. We ought to end hunger now. This war on the poor has to stop.”

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