With holidays approaching, new SNAP rule hurts families and fails businesses
© Thinkstock

One of the biggest failures of our society is the amount of people we allow to live in poverty. Last year, over 38 million Americans lived in poverty, including 16 percent of our children. Meanwhile, over 1 in 10 U.S. households were food insecure, meaning there wasn’t enough food to go around. Currently, 11 million children in America struggle with hunger.

Aside from being cruel and inhumane, the Trump administration’s recently announced final rule to restrict SNAP eligibility will hurt our small businesses and farmers. As chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, I must sound the alarm.

Despite the Republican talking point that federal food assistance is a drag on our economy, the facts paint a different picture. SNAP is one of the most effective federal private-public partnerships and last year, lifted 3.2 million Americans out of poverty.

ADVERTISEMENT

SNAP empowers households to use their purchasing power to support our economy, and the retailers that benefit are overwhelmingly small. Local grocers, bodegas, bakeries and butchers account for many of the 80 percent of SNAP’s small authorized retailers. For every SNAP dollar redeemed, an estimated $1.70 is returned to the economy, helping to support local jobs.

Not only do small businesses sell food to SNAP recipients, they also produce it. SNAP spurs investment in the small business-heavy industries of manufacturing, agriculture, and energy. In 2017, SNAP supported hundreds of thousands of jobs in these sectors.

Additionally, in my home borough of Brooklyn, as in many areas across the country, farmers’ markets have exploded as a convenient way of buying locally-sourced produce and other goods. Over the past few years, we have seen community outreach programs and support from multiple levels of government help to make farmers’ markets more accessible to SNAP recipients. The results have produced a 35 percent increase in SNAP benefits redeemed at farmers’ markets, from 2012 to 2017.

Especially as the president’s tariffs make it harder for American small businesses to survive, we ought to be continuing to invest, not turn away from Main Street businesses and family-owned farms.

Indeed, what this proposed SNAP rule reinforces is the Trump administration’s willingness to spend taxpayer money bailing out foreign corporations impacted by the trade war, while refusing to help Americans in need of nutritional assistance. Sadly, this administration has a history of putting corporate profits ahead of hardworking people, and this is yet another tragic low.

ADVERTISEMENT

As my colleague from Ohio, Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Moniz says U.S. needs energy jobs coalition and Manchin says Congress is pushing Wall Street solutions that don't work for Main Street; Burr to step aside Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrat concedes in California House race MORE so accurately described, the rule announced by the Trump administration does not make any good-faith effort to help Americans find work. She also aptly notes that most SNAP recipients draw benefits for less than a year, meaning the program is often temporary.

The truth is that SNAP is a successful private-public partnership that millions of Americans depend on to prevent hunger and food insecurity. The program fuels consumer spending for small retailers and supports local economies in our communities.

Not during this holiday season, or any season, should we be trying to take it away.

Velázquez serves as Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee and a representative for New York’s 7th District. She is the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress.