As allegations about Judge Kavanaugh multiply and cast doubt on his character and fitness for the Supreme Court, there was a lot of bad news this past September. Here is one good story that no one is paying attention to — SNAP, that is, food stamps, in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Just this past Sunday, September 30th, we missed a deadline to renew the Farm Bill. But that is actually a good thing. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is funded by the bill and was facing dramatic cuts in a version that was up for renewal. With the deadline passing and Farm Bill expiring, SNAP is safe until after the 2018 midterm elections.
For months, President Trump has advocated for immoral cuts to Farm Bill nutrition assistance, including SNAP. The House version of the bill would have cut access even more. I thank God that Congress’ inaction led them to preserve the existing policy.
I often think of Jesus’ parable about a rich man named Dives who found himself in Hell because he failed to see the humanity of the poor man Lazarus at his gate. Like Dives, America may miss an opportunity and cost our country her soul.
Jesus fed people. He recognized the immorality of hunger and always took action. Lawmakers who call themselves Christians should follow Jesus’ behavior.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as many as two million Americans could see their SNAP assistance reduced or cut off in the House of Representatives’ Farm Bill. This comes directly after a wicked order directing federal agencies to promote red tape and stricter work requirements across federal programs, including SNAP. While such measures might sound innocuous on the surface, they feed a false narrative and have harmful consequences for people living in places without jobs, or who are taking care of their families full-time.SNAP is the first line of defense against hunger, especially for children, seniors and people with disabilities. Nearly two-thirds of people who rely on SNAP are under 18, over 60 or disabled, according to the USDA. And most SNAP recipients who can work, do work. This assistance is designed to provide crucial assistance for low-wage workers and already has work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents.
More than this: SNAP is a minimal program at its best. It provides a mere $1.40 per meal to 42 million Americans. It is designed as a support that can respond quickly to rising need. If you become disabled temporarily or are between jobs or are struggling to feed your kids and pay rent, SNAP can help you. That is why in the height of the Great Recession twenty million more people were receiving SNAP than before. It automatically responds to needs.
The private sector, food pantries and other charities provided by faith institutions are vital to alleviating poverty and caring for the least and the lost, but they simply aren’t enough. More than this, feeding struggling families is not a matter of charity. It is a matter of justice and human dignity — which places it firmly within the government’s purview. In order for the US government to be legitimate and responsible, it must care for the hungry.
America, the world’s richest nation, must avoid Dives’ mistake. With the Farm Bill expiring on Sunday we avoided one grievous sin. Now we have the opportunity now to do right and pass a humane renewal. One that improves efficiency and protects people who need help. The alternative is the living hell we embrace when we fail to treat poor, unfortunate and disabled people with humanity.