Both sides dig in over cutting food stamps

While battle lines harden, at least 234,000 fewer people are collecting the benefit from December's peak. That might not appease critics.

By Aimee Picchi May 15, 2013 12:27PM
A sign on a frozen food case indicates that Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) and food stamps are accepted at the Dollar General Corp. store in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, U.S., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Updated at 4:36 p.m.

A fight is simmering over food stamps, one of the nation's most used social welfare benefits and a lightning rod for both conservatives and liberals. 

The number of Americans tapping the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reached a record in December, bringing the program under fire for last year's $74.6 billion in spending. That's more than double what the program paid out before the Great Recession. 

As a result, both the Senate and House are debating measures that would shave the program. The Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday approved the Farm Bill, which would cut the SNAP program by about $4.1 billion, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee is considering its own version of the Farm Bill, which would trim about $2.5 billion a year. 

The fight over the proposed cuts is coming from two sides: those who think the reductions don't go far enough and those who believe they will devastate already struggling families. 

But lost amid the debate is the fact that demand for the benefit is easing from its December peak, when a record 47.8 million people received the aid. Since then, the program has shed about 234,000 people from its rolls, according the most recent data from the Department of Agriculture, which has posted figures through February.

While only a small improvement, it does suggest the program is helping some families get by until they're able to boost their incomes and get off the rolls.

The fighting over food stamps, though, is likely to ratchet up as the legislation progresses, with some Republicans, such as Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., complaining that the cuts are inadequate. Some critics also complain that the program allows people to buy unhealthful food such as Coca-Cola's (KO) sweetened soft drinks or Mondelez's (MDLZ) Oreo cookies. 

"We believe we have to start moving in a direction that gets the spending trajectory of these programs down to a more reasonable level," Thune said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are fighting the cuts, with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., saying in a statement that the reductions will "literally take food away from hungry children."

Despite the recent decline in food stamp recipients, the number of Americans receiving SNAP benefits remains well above the levels seen just a few years ago. That means the debate won't die down anytime soon. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi. 

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May 15, 2013 8:03PM

It's the people that is abusing the "SNAP Program" that is making it hard for the ones that really need it. I know of a Lady that Lied to get over $700 in food stamps, telling that her Mom and others live with her when they don't. When you report them they do nothing about it, no home visits or nothing.

They need to make home visits, go to the homes and make them show ID"S. DHS need to do more then just approve them and be done with it. People that DON"T need food stamps can get them, ones that need it can't get it. They really need to change their "Guide Lines" Just my opinion!

May 15, 2013 7:47PM
I hope this country goes down in a hurry!!! I love America but things have changed in recent years.  The government if full of liars and has been for years.  Those that won't work do better than those that do work.  Why try to get an education if one who is too sorry to work gets as much government money as you do on a job, if you're lucky or unlucky enough to have a job?  The politicians have ruined us but they keep getting re-elected becasue they hand out money to the 53% that pay no taxes. That is a guaraneteed re-election strategy.  Not even proofreading...forgive typoes.  Blame it on Congress cause they piss me off! They are not worth the money they take as a salary for a part time job so poorly done.
May 15, 2013 7:45PM
they need to go back to vouchers. they can go in to a 7-11 or a deli and get cold food. fast food. and that is not how I remember it was.. it there to help you put food in your house for your children. not to go to a sandwich deli. or cold pizza caz your to lazy to cook. you can get more for you money if you just  budget your money and  buy bread meats and chesses. this is our problem with the system. its to slack. it there to help get on your feet. not to abuse it.
May 15, 2013 7:41PM
I am glad to see this headline!! And, I do hope they will cut food stamps.  But, I am going to make a prediction!  FOOD STAMPS WILL SEE NO MEANINGFUL CUTS!!!  The reason is simple.  These are part of the people in the 53% group.  These are the ones who pay no taxes, for the most part.  If CONgress cuts these, they will turn on CONgress and throw them out!   CONgress knows that!  I do not beliveve food stamps will be cut much if any at all.  I would rather think they will give our more food stamps for more votes.  But I do hope they will cut them!! Again, they will cut SS more for the old people who aren't able to fight or vote.
May 15, 2013 7:40PM
ps, piss test ALL welfare rats and bar code only state approved food items for baby birdies on food stamps so they cant stuff their gullets with junk food! ever see alyssa milano on tv? you can feed an african for $1.50 a day. why can we do that here? the usa exports more free food than any other nation in the world! 
May 15, 2013 7:38PM
I am NOT on food stamps,although I should be.  My husband is disabled, I have 3 children,and I am supporting my family of 5 on a part-time income with no benefits.  My entire family has insurance, my husband gets Medicare, but it comes out of his small disability check, which doesn't even pay our mortgage.  I am the only person in my family that is working and I do not have insurance and cannot afford to seek any medical care, even though I need it.  I cannot afford to buy food and I have applied for food stamps on many occasions and apparently do not qualify.  Now the government wants to charge me for NOT having insurance, which I cannot possibly afford.  Where will it end?  How do these unneedy people qualify for food stamps, when there are people who truly are in need do not qualify?
May 15, 2013 7:38PM
remember when churches, families, and charities took care of the surplus population NOT the american taxpayer? since 0we-bama took office "disability" claims have DOUBLED! how can that be? we have thousands of incompetent bureaucrats @ OSHA!  here's a solution. cut all entitlements: housing, welfare, foodstamps, & medicaid. make these programs the same length as unemployment insurance in each state. then the baby birdies are on their own. SS disability is decimating the program thanks to loads who are too FN lazy to work and the buzzard lawyers on tv who cannot practice real law! ENOUGH already! 
May 15, 2013 7:37PM

Cut all off system. Teach society to  hunt for a job! Its so abused now kids are running around with the parents EBT cards buying soda's and dam junk at the local liquor stores. Even adults are buying large amounts of food at the liquor store paying higher prices just because they are #1 embarrassed and #2 don't respect what is free and don't give a dam because they are all part of the nations scam! (if everyone is doing it, then its okay!) payments should not increase when parents have more children when on system either. I would start by removing the ATM/EBT cards and go back to paper and photo I.D.'s  

May 15, 2013 7:35PM

My parents always taught me about NO FREE LUNCH, YOU ONLY GET WHAT YOU WORK FOR & I always have to wonder where that concept got lost. Our government consists of a gang of vote seeking bleeding hearts that are never affected by their liberalism since it doesn't get them out of their limos or to ground level. I have a tremendous empathy for the needy , but not for the conniving freebie getters that are so abusive & know the system inside out. Witnessed a man that could not pay for dog food with his access card, so, he put that back in the grocery store & bought steak for his dog...ABUSIVE??

I've had enough. There should be a very tough, rigid system of checks & balances to determine  genuine need!!   

May 15, 2013 7:32PM
Way back in the dark ages when I was a kid....Food was given out by the goverment.  We went down to the fairgounds to a certain building and they asked how many people in your family and you got cheese, flour , can meat, oil, peanut otherwords good food now it has developed into this many times do people hit me up to give them 1/2 the cash value and they will buy me food.  I am tired of should be wiped out and they should be given food only not trading for cash to buy drugs with.
May 15, 2013 7:31PM
strange, most people i know on; EBT are in dire need & are grateful for assistance..troubled times do deserve programs for the poor Americans..
May 15, 2013 7:29PM

4 barracks, one mess hall per 4 bararacks, I dispensary per 12 barracks, I school for 16 barracks, I spare uniform ware house per 24 barracks.

They get a warm, dry place ro sleep and eat, an education and medical care and clothing.

No money, no way to get any money without working.

The Snap program will be halved in 90 days

May 15, 2013 7:28PM
Here's an idea... Didn't I read the other day that the Post Office is losing millions of dollars?  What if everyone on food stamps and WIC that is not employed has to work at the post office...we could pay them minimum wage, every year worked they could get a $0.50/hour raise and a decrease in food stamps.  If they worked 30 years they could be making almost $23/hour.  With that they could have all the pop and ice cream cake they wanted.

I can already think of drawbacks to this plan....  I have a challenge for all of you reading this... Instead of complaining about everything.  Post an idea you have that could help.  Does anybody know of anyone that is it.  

God bless the USA.
May 15, 2013 7:26PM
The government also should require any one receiving food stamps that is not disabled to have a 40 hr a week job or be going to college full time.
May 15, 2013 7:25PM
if the government would give food stamps based on need and not income less money would be used.example mom and baby get 487.00 a month in food stamps and use about 200.00,mom and 3 kids get 211.00 because mom has income and because of that income she struggles to put food on the table after the bills are paid. they should not be giving a mom and one baby who dont use all their food stamps 487.00. it should be set up based on age of each person in the house ,and house hold size. babys dont need food stamps until age one at least when they are eating table food ,they get free formula threw the wic program or the mom breast feeds  but the government raises the moms food stamps the day the baby is born. why do they do that its nuts. the government needs to listen to the people of America and start making smart decisions.
May 15, 2013 7:25PM
Food stamps weren't meant to be a lifetime goal, yet they are given out to non-citizens, and the willfully unemployed folks, such as my brother, who has now, 6 CHILDREN. Can you say abuse?

Also, people routinely sell them for cash, so they can buy things like alcohol!!

Makes me, a person who works 40 + hours a week sick!

May 15, 2013 7:25PM
The government would save a ton of money if they dropped the use of fast food restaurants accepting food stamps/ EBT cards. Why do people on food stamps need to go to McDonalds or Taco Bell?  The government  originally accepted EBT cards at fast food restaurants to boost up these corporations stock shares values, not to help the poor and their eating habits. 
May 15, 2013 7:24PM
Sometimes people need a little help, Do stop them from buying candy,pop and chips with food stamps.Make it so no one can sell their stamps for cash!! Don't judge all people because of a few bad apples,I think the welfare dept. needs a major overhaul,They don't really check any one correctly,Start setting these people up with work,Take the money your wasting on food stamps and pay these people to work.
May 15, 2013 7:22PM
Before they start cutting a program that is doing what it is meant to do, maybe they should look at programs that are not or doing the same thing that another program is suppose to do. It would be more help to look at all the programs and see which one are working and which one are not.
May 15, 2013 7:20PM
My comment has a typo.  You SHOULDN"T be able to purchase a home on welfare money. If a working person doesn't qualify for a loan, a welfare mother should be able to qualify. 
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