The budget plan for FY 2012 that the House passed in April by a party line vote includes a Food Stamp proposal that the House Budget Committee says is intended to "encourage states to reduce [the Food Stamp] rolls" through the same principles Congress used to reform welfare cash assistance back in 1996.
As welfare reform did to cash assistance, the House proposal would convert Food Stamps to a block grant, cap federal Food Stamp funding, and weaken or repeal the program’s national standards. The House Budget Committee has estimated that the proposal would reduce federal Food Stamp spending by $127 billion, about 20%, over a ten year period.
The Food Stamp program currently aids over 44 million persons in over 20 million low income households. About half of the households aided by Food Stamps are family households with children, and a majority of these family households are families headed by single mothers.
If “welfare reform” in Food Stamps had the same impact as welfare reform in cash assistance, the House proposal, if enacted, could severely diminish Food Stamp availability for needy Americans, shrink the number of needy persons receiving Food Stamps, reduce real benefits for those still able to receive Food Stamps, and shrink the current 86% participation rates for eligible family households to 40% or less.
Food Stamps provided a safety net as the Great Recession wrecked havoc on many American families. From the beginning of the recession in December 2007 to February 2011, the Food Stamp caseload increased 61% because Americans depend on the program as a safety net to fall back on in difficult economic times. The House’s proposal threatens to cut aid to Americans who need it most.