House plan to limit food stamps would hurt New Yorkers: Maloney

House plan to limit food stamps would hurt New Yorkers: Maloney
Photo by Bianca Fortis
By Bianca Fortis

Political leaders in western Queens are opposing a congressional proposal that would cut $39 billion from the federal food stamps program over the next 10 years.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) Monday called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food stamps, a vital safety net that keeps millions of Americans out of poverty.

“These cuts are part of the GOP’s continued affront on millions of low-income families, many of them headed by single woman,” she said.

Maloney was joined by state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) in front of the Hour Children food pantry in Long Island City to publicly denounce the proposed cuts.

House Republicans, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), want to change eligibility requirements for the program, which would leave between 4 million and 6 million Americans ineligible for food stamps, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priority. The goal of the cuts is to decrease the national deficit.

The center projects that in 2014, more than 3 million New York state residents will be using the program.

The SNAP program is usually part of the Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years. However, Republicans pushed for a cut of about $20 billion to food stamps, causing the bill to fail. Now Republicans have nearly doubled the amount they want to cut in a new separate bill.

Food stamp recipients throughout New York state already will be hit with more than $300 million in reductions to SNAP benefits when a cut to the program goes into effect Nov. 1, the center said.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 temporarily increased SNAP benefits as a way to stimulate the economy, but that boost is now expiring.

“There are countless western Queens residents who heavily rely on SNAP benefits to feed their families every single day,” Van Bramer said. “If enacted, these proposed cuts will place a tremendous strain on local city food pantries, like Hour Children, which are already struggling to feed those in need.”

Abigael Burke, the food pantry and outreach coordinator for Hour Children, said the SNAP program is the first line of defense for anti-hunger advocates.

“We must keep it strong,” she said. “Food pantries and soup kitchens and emergency food programs like my own are the last line of defense and they are already strapped.”

Burke said within the last couple of years she has seen an increase of more than 40 percent in food pantry participants and that number is continuing to grow.

Maloney complimented the work done by Hour Children, but said the organization is underfunded and cannot be relied upon to provide assistance to needy members of the community.

According to the center, 47 percent of food stamp recipients are children and nearly two-thirds of benefits go to women. The bill would also cut 280,000 children from school meal programs.

“No child should have to go hungry because of partisan politics,” Simotas said. “I join Congresswoman Maloney in her call to protect the most vulnerable among us by providing access to adequate food for every American.”

In a statement, Borough President Helen Marshall said SNAP helps recipients “get the nutrition they need to be healthy. The huge $40 billion cut that some in the House are proposing to make to SNAP would heartlessly throw millions of Americans out of the program and cut benefits for millions more.”

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.