Congressional Democrats reportedly think they've found just the food stamp cut—one that they can sell as a not completely heartless "administrative fix" yet will satisfy enough Republicans to pass a farm bill. The big problem is that it's a food stamp cut, and that's a terrible idea in a country with a hunger problem.
The cut in question involves the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Currently, if states award a family a LIHEAP of even $1 or $5, it can increase the amount of a family's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. Republicans and some Democrats like to frame this as a loophole that gets people benefits they don't deserve. The answer? Raise the amount of LIHEAP benefit required to get families increased food stamps to $20, so that states can't boost benefits for as many. That would have a big impact: 850,000 households, a total of around 1.7 million people, could lose $90 a month from their already inadequate SNAP benefits.
Of course, LIHEAP is underfunded and only available to a fraction of eligible households but you don't hear Congress talking about dramatically expanding that program to cover all those who need it. No, it's only when a program is on the chopping block that we start hearing a lot about who deserves what or is eligible for how much. Alan Pyke points out another way food stamps and programs to help poor people are judged differently than programs that benefit the wealthy:
Food stamps are less abused than the farm bill’s crop insurance subsidies program, which has a higher erroneous payments rate than the anti-hunger program. And while the crop insurance program diverts billions of dollars to Wall Street coffers, SNAP spending pays immediate dividends for the whole economy. A dollar in SNAP spending yields about $1.70 in economic activity, one of the highest multiplier effects of any government program.Merely taking $90 a month out of the mouths of 850,000 poor families isn't going to be enough for most Republicans, which means that this "compromise" can only be passed with a lot of Democratic votes. That's not acceptable.