U.S. House of Representatives

Two different versions of the Farm bill were recently passed in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. They differ in one striking manner. The House bill, passed with only a two vote majority, places unfair work requirements on Americans who are in desperate need of food stamp assistance to feed themselves and their families.

I joined all of my Democratic House colleagues in voting against the House bill which was supported by the Trump administration and others in Washington who seem to think that children and adults that exist below the poverty line choose to do so because they enjoy poverty.

The Senate bill was passed by a vote of 86 to 11. It maintains food stamp assistance to low income Americans without requiring that they find employment in order to receive assistance.

If the House bill passes nearly 2 million adults and children will cease receiving food stamps and would join countless others who live in households that suffer from food insecurity, according to experts who study hunger in the United States.

Some of the congressional supporters of work requirements for the poor argue that the federal government should not extend food stamp benefits to growing numbers of people. These are the same individuals who voted for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Now, they want poor people to pay the price for those tax cuts.

What the administration and some of its allies are supporting is unconscionable. They are blaming the poor for being poor and placing obstacles in their paths, assigning them to a status of perpetual economic, social and psychological stress. Nearly 1 in 8 people in America receives food stamp assistance.

They are distributed under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP, and administered by the Department of Agriculture. Void of any reasonable comprehension, the administration is proposing that the program be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently, childless adults who are not ill or impaired and who receive food stamps must be employed. If the proponents of the legislation passed in the House prevail, adults with school children will also have to find employment in order to qualify for food stamp benefits.

The penalties are harsh in the House bill, eliminating families from the SNAP program if they are unable to find work. No one seems to ask where will the children in these families get food if their parents are unable to find work.

Providing needy families with food stamps was an important part of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty program. Certainly, he would be shocked to see legislators in Washington now turning their attention away from fighting poverty, as they declare war on the poor!

U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.

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