January 18, 2018

NM Democrats Urge Trump Not to Make Changes to SNAP

Proposals would create new barriers prohibiting NM families from accessing food assistance

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham urged the president not to alter to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in ways that would prohibit New Mexicans in need from accessing food assistance. New Mexico has the third-highest proportion of SNAP recipients per capita – nearly one quarter of the state’s residents rely on food assistance. According to the lawmakers, the Trump administration's proposals to impose new eligibility requirements for SNAP could create barriers that would prevent children, seniors, people with disabilities and families experiencing hardship from qualifying for the help they need to put food on the table.

In a letter to President Trump, the lawmakers wrote, "The availability of SNAP to [New Mexicans in need] should not be reduced by unnecessary barriers to entry. Establishing burdensome participation requirements such as those outlined in several pieces of proposed legislation and your proposed FY 18 budget would jeopardize SNAP participants living in parts of our country with higher unemployment rates, such as our state of New Mexico."

Half of SNAP recipients are enrolled in the program for 10 months or less, often during transitional periods when families are facing temporary hardship, such as temporary unemployment. These families would no longer qualify if the administration imposes the proposed work eligibility requirement.

"SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the word; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. SNAP provides essential nutrition benefits to working families, children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals in every state and town in our country," the lawmakers wrote.

The 2017 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book ranked New Mexico the second-worst state in the nation for child well-being, in part because 29 percent of children live in poverty. Newly released research shows that SNAP is the primary source of nutrition assistance for many low-income people, and has resulted in improved nutritional outcomes and lower health care costs. While SNAP provides just $1.40 per person per meal on average, it helps supplement food costs for low-income families, making them more likely to spend money on healthier food, health-promoting activities, and medical care.

The full letter can be found below and here.

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to express our concern regarding changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) implementation. While we support efforts to improve the integrity and effectiveness of SNAP, we encourage you to reject changes designed to erect new barriers to participation, which would prevent needy children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and families from accessing food assistance.

SNAP is our nation’s first line of defense against hunger. SNAP is a safety net program in the truest sense of the word; there is no other more fundamental human need than food. SNAP provides essential nutrition benefits to working families, children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals in every state and town in our country.

Researchers estimate that half of all American children will receive SNAP at some point during childhood, and half of all adults will do so at some point between the ages of 20 and 65 years. Indeed, 44 percent of SNAP participants were children, 12 percent were seniors, and 9 percent were disabled, non-senior adults. Furthermore, SNAP recipients are diverse with regards to race-ethnicity, many have earned income, and the vast majority of SNAP households do not receive cash welfare benefits. Half of SNAP participants entering the program are enrolled for 10 months or less, demonstrating the importance of this program for transitional periods of time when families face temporary hardship.

The availability of SNAP to our seniors, children, persons with disabilities, and families should not be reduced by unnecessary barriers to entry. Establishing burdensome participation requirements such as those outlined in several pieces of proposed legislation and your proposed FY 18 budget would jeopardize SNAP participants living in parts of our country with higher unemployment rates, such as our state of New Mexico.

Maintaining current eligibility requirements is not simply a humanitarian cause – providing low-income families with food assistance is a boon to the economy. Every dollar in new SNAP benefits generates up to $1.80 in economic activity and approximately 16 cents goes back to the farmers. SNAP also has a strong antipoverty effect; when SNAP benefits are added to gross income, 10 percent of households move above the poverty line. In our poorest communities this impact is even larger, moving 12 percent of households above the 50 percent-mark of the poverty line. The Congressional Budget Office rated an increase in SNAP benefits as one of the two most cost-effective options for boosting growth and jobs in the weak economy. Changes would also cost millions in administrative costs by requiring states to re-determine eligibility for SNAP, even if a household was deemed eligible for other state and/or federal assistance programs.

Please consider the needs of our children, seniors, persons with disabilities, and families as you consider ways to improve SNAP and other assistance programs.

Sincerely,