The Common Good

New Yorkers “Baffled” By Battle Against Food Aid

Date: September 16, 2013

ROOSEVELT, N.Y. - Advocates for low-to-middle-income New York families have said it is bad enough that the expiration of President Obama's stimulus spending is going to reduce SNAP benefits on Nov. 1. Now, some Republicans in Congress want to cut them further.

Critics want to reduce SNAP funding by $40 billion over the next decade and restore a work requirement for able-bodied adults without children who seek SNAP benefits. Among those pushing back is a coalition of religious organizations that has called SNAP a moral issue and said cutting benefits is the wrong thing to do.

The Rev. Jim Wallis said his group, Sojourners, along with other religious progressives, believes it is hypocritical for foes of government spending to dole out millions in subsidies to farmers, yet cut back SNAP benefits.

"Our commitment is, we're going to tell the politicians, 'You go after the poorest people because you think that's safe? We'll make that politically unsafe for you.' This is wrong, it's hypocrisy, and it should not be done," Wallis said.

Stacey Scarpone, Women's Fund of Long Island, said more than 30 percent of single mothers on Long Island receive some kind of government assistance, and reductions could be disastrous.

"A working mom has limited disposable income for things like food, due to other necessary costs that they have, whether it's child care or the increased cost in rent," Scarpone said.

Wallis said while he considers those who want to cut food stamp benefits morally compromised, he recognizes the importance of reining in government spending, as well.

"Crushing deficits are also a moral issue. I've got young kids; I don't want to shackle them with the burden of debt forever," he said. "They're not going to where the money is. They're going to where the vulnerable people are."