The Child Welfare League of America has joined onto opposition to H.R. 2, an agriculture reauthorization bill that extends nutrition programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program. The letter CWLA has signed onto urges Members of Congress to vote no. The letter was written jointly by First Focus and the Children’s Leadership Council. The letter outlines how the bill’s proposed changes to SNAP will lead to a direct cut in benefits and access to school meals for poor and low-income children.
Of the numerous provisions:
• It restricts and virtually eliminates categorical eligibility which means many states will have to introduce a costly and delayed process of asset testing for SNAP eligibility. As a result, H.R. 2 would cause many families to lose eligibility solely because of red tape, and force other families to choose between meeting their basic need for food and building up the savings and resources that would help them achieve economic mobility.
• It has the effect of denying poor and low-income children access to school meals because under current law, children who receive SNAP are directly certified for free school meal programs. By forcing families off of SNAP due to changes in categorical eligibility, H.R. 2 would break the link between SNAP receipt and school meals for low-income and poor children. As a result, an estimated 265,000 children stand to lose access to free school meals. The school meals program was originally created under President Harry Truman, in part because the military was complaining about too many draftees not passing entrance physicals due to nutrition issues.
• It reduces SNAP benefits for families who may automatically qualify for nutrition support because they qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP funds are distributed by states to low income families to help them offset heating costs in some winter state and cooling costs in hot weather states.
• More restrictive work requirements that change existing SNAP work requirements aimed at childless adults. The current requirements have unintended and harmful consequences for children (for instance, those who rely on pooled resources from extended family and Non-Custodial Parents) and youth (such as those aging out of foster care.) The bill would intensify and expand work requirements, reduce state flexibility for exemptions, and require states to implement costly training and employment programs that will take funds from food benefits to support a bureaucracy that will not provide quality job training and placement services to people.
• The 13 million school-aged children on SNAP would be affected because it expands work requirements to adults with school-aged children. This provision effects parents or guardians acting as a caretaker including a child with a disability;
• Children in the care of grandparents, more than 2.5 million children being raised by their grandparents or other relatives, would be effected because H.R. 2 would expands work requirements for adults up to age 60 who are caring for children over six years of age.
• Youth aging out of foster care and unaccompanied, homeless youth: Youth aging out of foster care often face various challenges, including homelessness, difficulty affording education, and finding employment. Unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults (who lack safe stable housing and who are not in the care of a parent or guardian) experience similar difficulties, especially when they reach age 18. Existing SNAP work requirements already create a substantial barrier for these young people from accessing food assistance, because they technically meet the definition of a childless adult. Under the harsh requirements in H.R. 2, these vulnerable young adults will face even larger obstacles to food assistance. This becomes more significant in light of the other legislation that would also link housing vouchers to work requirements
If you are a national organization interested in signing onto the letter of opposition you can read the letter here and then use this link to sign on by Tuesday, May 8th, at COB pm. For questions, please contact Rachel Merker with First Focus at Rachelm@firstfocus.org or Randi Schmidt with the Children’s Leadership Council at RSchmidt@childrensleadershipcouncil.org.