In 2010, Democrats took $14 billion dollars allocated for Future Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and used it to help pay for a child nutrition bill and a state assistance bill promising to replace the money before any cuts took place. The funds were originally allocated by the 2009 stimulus bill, boosting the value of SNAP payments by 13.6 percent.
Instead of replacing the funds as they said they would Senate Democrats recently passed a farm bill that reduces the deficit by cutting an additional $4.5 billion from food stamps.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are seeking to slash SNAP in order to shield the military from scheduled cuts next year.
Another Republican proposal in the House targets a program known as “Heat and Eat,” which Republicans say is a loophole. “Heat and Eat” states can send utility assistance checks as low as $1 to needy households, which in turn qualifies them for a boosted utility allowance under SNAP. Under the farm bill, states would be required to send utility assistance checks worth at least $10 for the recipient household to get a SNAP boost.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, “Heat and Eat” will continue in some states, but nearly 500,000 households a year will see their food stamps diminish by about $90 a month.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who helped push the farm bill through the Senate as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, spoke out against “Heat and Eat”.
“Here’s what’s going on: In a handful of states, they found a way to increase the SNAP benefits for people in their states by sending $1 checks in heating assistance to everyone who gets food assistance,” Stabenow said on the Senate floor. “For the small number of states that are doing that, it is undermining the integrity of the program, in my judgment.”
Cullen Schwarz, a spokeswoman for Stabenow, stressed that ending “Heat and Eat” will end misuse of the program.
“The Senate Farm Bill does not cut standard benefits, it only confronts misuse like lottery winners continuing to receive assistance or a small number of states giving $1 a year in heating assistance to people without a heating bill so the state can bring in benefits above the standard,” Schwarz said in an email. “Senator Stabenow has vehemently opposed, and beaten, every Republican amendment that has sought to actually cut standard benefits.”
Republicans are not satisfied with cutting $4.5 billion out of SNAP, even proposing to eliminate the program all together and replacing it with block grants.