CBO finds House bill cuts off food stamps for millions

The bill, developed under the leadership of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), would save the government $39 billion over 10 years, about $1 billion shy of the total savings sought by the bill's authors, the CBO found.

The largest savings, some $19 billion, comes from eliminating the ability of states to waive work requirements for able-bodied adults.  

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This change would cause 1.7 million people to lose benefits in 2014, the CBO estimates. That number would decline to 0.5 million by 2023 as the economy grows under CBO's baseline assumptions.

Another $11.6 billion comes from updating how the Department of Agriculture determines eligibility. This change would include ending the ability of the poor to become “categorically eligible” for food stamps by virtue of qualifying for other benefits. 

This change would result in 2.1 million people losing food stamps in 2014, the CBO said.

The bill gets $9 billion in savings from changing the way receiving home heating assistance allows people to become eligible for food stamps. 

This change would reduce benefits by an average of $90 per month for an estimated 850,000 households. 

The CBO numbers will figure prominently in what promises to be a loud debate on the House floor at the House GOP attempts to pass the changes on Thursday. Democrats hope that some Republicans from poorer districts will balk at the level of cuts. 

The effort is part of a long farm bill saga. Normally, food stamp funding is wrapped into a five-year farm subsidy bill but this year the House was unable to pass a farm bill with $20 billion in food stamp cuts. The cuts were too small for many in the GOP and too large for most Democrats.

If the bill passes Thursday, it would head to a House-Senate farm bill conference. The Senate envisions $4 billion in food stamp cuts over 10 years mostly due to a change in the home-heating assistance eligibility mechanism. If a final farm bill is produced at all, it is likely to contain a level of cuts less than that envisioned in the House measure scored by the CBO on Monday.