By Erik Wasson - 10/28/13 12:32 PM EDT
A group of 39 liberal senators on Monday urged the pending farm bill conference to reject any proposed cuts to the food stamp program.
The letter comes two days before the conference committee on the House and Senate-passed farm bills begins.
Organized by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the letter urges the House-Senate conference to put aside both the $4.5 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cuts in the Senate farm bill and the $40 billion in cuts over 10 years in the House version.
“While we support efforts to improve the integrity of the SNAP program, we encourage conferees to reject all SNAP eligibility changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, preventing millions of seniors, children and families from accessing food assistance,” the letter states. “The eligibility changes also will mean an additional 280,000 children would lose free school meals because children in SNAP households are automatically eligible for school meals.”
The Senate bill gets savings by making it harder for home heating assistance recipients to automatically get food stamps. The House bill adds to this provision and also limits the connection between food stamps and other benefit programs. In addition, the House bill stops states from granting waivers for work requirements.
The Gillibrand letter notes that research suggests half of all adults between 20 and 65 will receive food stamps at some point and that the current benefit is only about $1.50 per meal.
The senators do not make reference, however, to a separate benefit cut slated to happen on Nov. 1 due to the expiration of the Obama 2009 stimulus law. A family of four will see $36 less per month after the cut, which activists have called the food stamp cliff, occurs.