Last week, the House of Representatives voted against the troubling Farm Bill that had recently passed through the Agricultural Committee. This version of the bill would have resulted in many Pennsylvanians losing access to SNAP, otherwise known as food stamps, which is often the last defense against hunger in our communities. The proposed House Farm Bill would cut SNAP benefits by nearly $19 million and take away food assistance from two million Americans who already struggle to make ends meet. It would particularly hurt families, children and the disabled by implementing strict and ineffective work programs, as well as unforgiving reporting rules, that would lead to people losing this critical benefit.
The supposed purpose of the House Farm Bill is to get those receiving such support back to work, despite the fact that the vast majority of recipients who can work, already do. The House Farm Bill was concerning to begin with, but it became even worse weeks before the vote due to the amendment process. Changes to the bill would have made it harder for states to get waivers in areas of high unemployment and would make existing work requirements more stringent.
The proposed changes also come with requirements of state governments to provide training for those who need it, which comes with a hefty price tag. The Farm Bill amendment, rather than addressing this problem, would reduce employment and training funds by $350 million over ten years. The bill’s funding would only provide $30/month for individuals who need training—just a drop in the bucket.
Representative Fitzpatrick, a Republican who serves the 8th District in Pennsylvania, including Bucks and Montgomery counties, did the right thing by voting against the bill, which would have had a devastating impact on families, seniors, and children in his district. Rep. Fitzpatrick succeeded in protecting his most vulnerable constituents through his bold leadership, which showed as he voted against party lines. His vote also makes smart financial sense for the state—why deny his constituents a federally funded benefit that would result in more red tape, increased state bureaucracy and unsustainable workforce training requirements due to lack of funding? And most importantly, adopting this version of the Farm Bill would have led to increased hunger and suffering among people in his district.
Unfortunately, Representative Costello, a Republican representing the 6th District, including part of Berks and Chester counties, didn’t have such good judgment. He voted for this problematic bill, which clarified for voters that fighting hunger for the most vulnerable in his district is not a priority. Luckily, he will have another opportunity to make the right choice.