A proposal to curtail the nation's food stamp program has activists and politicians up in arms. Advocates for the poor worry President Donald Trump's $4.1 trillion budget proposal would worsen conditions for American families struggling to pay for groceries.
Trump proposes cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps, by $ 192 billion over 10 years. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, a Democrat, says 18,000 local households would be affected. "That amounts to about 35,000 people that rely on this federal program that is a supplement to, like, Meals On Wheels and other programs, that gives nutrition cards to these households, that they can go out and buy food on their to supplement their meals. By cutting this program you have a chance here that they're gonna put people out on the streets and they're gonna be hungry."
Hunger Free America's Executive Director Joel Berg characterizes the scope and scale of the proposed cuts as "mind-boggling." "Half of SNAP recipients are children. The rest are primarily working parents, senior citizens, people with disabililties and veterans. So these cuts, if even partially implemented, would have a devastating impact on America, dramatically increasing hunger, giving us almost depression-levels of hunger and harming our economy because SNAP creates jobs in food production and distribution."
Berg is fighting what he calls "the myth that SNAP is welfare." "The average length of the time people receive SNAP is 10 months. It's thought of as welfare by many, but really it's social insurance, like unemployment insurance.
- Free food and assistance is available wherever you live. No matter what your situation - you can get nutritious food! Visit Hunger Free America's Find Food page or call the USDA's National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3 HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8 HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273) to locate food resources in your area.
The president’s budget also proposes cutting $800 billion from Medicaid and $272 billion from welfare programs. McCoy notes that people who access SNAP and other programs only do so because they have no other options. "We have six months to try to figure something out here, and we're gonna try to, and we're gonna try to keep this program together. But again, as we're trying to live under the 2 percent property tax cap and everything else, we have to be vigilant as to how we operate going forward, but if President Trump's gonna continue to make these cuts on Medicaid and programs like this, this is gonna have a disaster effect on people here, not just Albany County, but this crosses the great state of New York and this nation."
McCoy vows he’ll work on this with New York’s representatives on Capitol Hill.
Although the consensus is that the federal budget is unlikely to pass in its current form, Berg is still concerned over how the debate is being framed. "The Trump administration is pushing back, saying 'Oh these aren't cuts, we're just maintaining current funding, and they would only be cuts if the laws change.' Well, of course! That's the definition of a budget proposal. They actually have the chutzpah to say, uh, these aren't real cuts because our proposals will fail, essentially. It's insane."
According to the Associated Press, the exact impact of cuts in any one area of the economy is difficult to quantify, but the majority of SNAP benefits are spent at superstores and supermarkets. Last year, more than 44 million people received an average of $126 a month in SNAP benefits, totaling about $66.6 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.