A beneficiary of the food stamp program at a supermarket in New Jersey. The House bill would impose stricter work requirements on recipients of the program.CreditCreditSeth Wenig/Associated Press
Nearly two million low-income Americans, including 469,000 households with young children, would be stripped of benefits under the House version of the farm bill being considered this week by congressional negotiators, according to an analysis by a nonpartisan research firm.
The bill, a multiyear spending measure that narrowly passed the House in June, includes a proposal to reformulate income and expense criteria for the 42 million recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Under the bill, states could remove about 8 percent of those receiving aid from the rolls, according to the research firm, Mathematica, which used data from the Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service.
About 34 percent of seniors in the program, or 677,000 households, would lose benefits under the proposal, according to the study. More than one in 10 people with a disability, another 214,000 households, would also lose eligibility.
Those estimates do not account for another proposal in the measure, which would impose strict new work requirements on beneficiaries. An additional 1.2 million people could be stripped of aid under that plan, according to a separate analysis released in May by the Congressional Budget Office, the study’s authors said.
By contrast, the Senate’s version of the farm bill, which had bipartisan support, did not include tougher work requirements or the new benefit formula, and negotiators are struggling to reconcile such differences.
President Trump favors imposing stricter requirements on adult recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as food stamps, and has disparagingly described beneficiaries as “welfare” recipients.
On Wednesday, he called for lawmakers to adopt the House version of the bill, which also includes billions in subsidies for agricultural states in the Midwest.
“The Trump Economy is booming with the help of House and Senate GOP,” he wrote on Twitter. “#FarmBill with SNAP work requirements will bolster farmers and get America back to work. Pass the Farm Bill with SNAP work requirements!”
Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, who serves as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has been noncommital about the House version of the bill, telling reporters this week that while he supported work requirements and an overhaul to the nutrition program, passing the measure quickly was his “paramount” priority.
The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, K. Michael Conaway, Republican of Texas, expressed impatience with the progress of talks, urging the Senate to “pick up the pace” to address a growing agricultural slump in the farm belt that has been exacerbated by Mr. Trump’s trade war with China.
“Today my colleagues in the House and Senate highlighted the urgency in farm and ranch country and just how desperate times are as net farm income is slated to fall again this year,” he said.
The focus on agricultural subsidies, Senate staff members said, makes it less likely that the House proposals will be part of a final deal. But advocates for the poor were concerned that some, if not all, of the cuts could make it into the final version.
“Those who rely on SNAP — two-thirds of whom are children, older adults and people with disabilities — should have access to benefits without undue barriers,” said Jasmine Hall Ratliff, a program officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the Mathematica study.
Earlier Wednesday, the Agriculture Department said that 15 million households reported being “food insecure” in 2017. That is a slight decrease from the previous year, in terms of percentage, but still above levels seen before the economic downturn a decade ago.
“We must not accept mass deprivation in the wealthiest nation in world history as any sort of ‘new normal,’” said Joel Berg, the chief executive of Hunger Free America, a nationwide advocacy group. “Hunger is unacceptable in any society, but it’s particularly outrageous in the United States.”