Press Releases

Statement of the New York City Bar Association Calling on Congress to Reject Cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) in Farm Bill

The New York City Bar Association (the City Bar) joins the chorus of stakeholders who urge members of Congress and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees currently negotiating the Farm Bill to reject any cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) program and the imposition of harsher work requirements.

Almost 40 million SNAP recipients nationwide cannot afford cuts to these safety net benefits.  The maximum benefit for a household of three is only $6 per day,[1] which is inadequate to meet most family’s daily nutritional needs.

Moreover, increasing the work requirements that are already in place is unnecessary and would result in hunger.  First, SNAP already contains work requirements and recipients face stiff penalties for failing to meet them.[2]  Second, the majority of SNAP recipients who are working age and neither elderly nor disabled are already working.[3]  With the minimum wage so low in many parts of the country, full-time workers are still living in poverty and qualify for benefits.[4]  Third, based upon our members’ experiences working with low-income New Yorkers, we have observed firsthand that, instead of leading to better jobs, work rules often result in case closings due to difficulties navigating bureaucratic requirements.[5]  For example, clients may submit paperwork documenting employment or the basis for exemption due to a disability, but the government agency fails to file the paperwork properly; the result is a sudden loss of needed nutritional support. Not only does this result in hunger, but it contributes to housing instability as families are forced to spend money reserved for rent in order to put food on the table.

For these reasons, and others discussed at “The State of Federal Social Welfare Policy Under the Trump Administration: Doubling-Down on Failed Welfare Reform Policies that Punish Low-Income and Immigrant Community Members” (a panel of national experts hosted by the City Bar earlier this year),[6] imposing harsher work requirements on SNAP in today’s economy will have an unacceptably high human cost. Indeed, as we saw with the welfare overhaul in 1996, which included the imposition of harsher work requirements, such changes will result in increased poverty and dire conditions for many low-income Americans.[7] We urge Congress to reject the version of the Farm Bill approved by the House (H.R. 2) and to remain steadfast in rejecting what could be catastrophic changes for low-income people.

About the Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 24,000 members, is to equip and mobilize the legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world. The City Bar’s Social Welfare Law Committee’s work focuses on legal issues impacting low income New Yorkers and public policies which concern income disparities and the social safety net. 
www.nycbar.org

Footnotes

[1] July 28, 2017 Memo from the USDA Food and Nutritional Service stating the 2018 COLA rates for SNAP, available at: https://fns-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/snap/SNAP_Fiscal_Year_2018_Cost_of_Living_Adjustments.pdf.

[2]  See, e.g., 7 U.S.C. § 2015(d); 7 C.F.R. § 273.7.

[3]  See, e.g., Sharon Parrot, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “Council of Economic Advisers Report on Assistance Programs and Employment Overlooks Key Evidence,” at 3, September 24, 2018, available at: https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/9-24-18econ.pdf (summarizing CBPP research showing that 87 percent of SNAP households with children included someone who worked in the year before or after a month of benefit receipt and that 74 percent of adult recipients not receiving disability-related benefits were working in the year before or after that month).

[4]  Id. at 4-5. See U.S. Department of Labor “Minimum Wage Laws in the State,” current as of July 1, 2018, available at: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/wages/minimumwage.

[5] September 10, 2015 letter from City Bar to Governor Cuomo (urging the Governor to sign New York State legislation that would address the high volume of baseless sanctions resulting from welfare reform work rules), available at: https://www2.nycbar.org/pdf/report/uploads/20072959-ConciliationProceduresNoticePubAssistSocWelfareLettertoGovFINAL91015.pdf.

[6] An audio recording of the event is available here: https://www.nycbar.org/media-listing/media/////571a56bf0b59a2702c1d516f////1/10/the-state-of-federal-social-welfare-policy-under-the-trump-administration/.

[7]  See, e.g., Newkirk, Van R., “The Real Lessons From Bill Clinton’s Welfare Reform,” The Atlantic, Feb. 5, 2018 (“Lessons”), available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/welfare-reform-tanf-medicaid-food-stamps/552299/ (discussing how the 1996 welfare reform law, which replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), reduced the percentage of people in need who could receive assistance without reducing the number of people suffering from poverty). The Lessons piece also reported on the findings of a 2013 working paper from the National Poverty Center that found the number of people living on less than $2 a day increased from 636,000 in 1996 to 1.65 million in 2011. Id. See also Haberman, “Retro Report: Twenty Years Later Welfare Overhaul Resonates for Children and Families,” The New York Times, May 1, 2016, available at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/us/20-years-later-welfare-overhaul-resonates-for-families-and-candidates.html.