New farm bill could end food stamp benefits for 60,000 Washingto - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

New farm bill could end food stamp benefits for 60,000 Washingtonians

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SEATTLE, WA - The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote as soon as this week on a bill that would take away Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) benefits from about 60,000 people in 25,000 households in Washington. This would result from restricting an option the state uses to extend benefits to SNAP-eligible, working families with modest earnings, according to a new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

An option, called "categorical eligibility," allows states to raise their SNAP gross income cutoff and provide SNAP benefits to these low-income working families, providing on average about $100 a month to put food on their tables. In 2008, Washington elected to use categorical eligibility, allowing a household of 3 with a monthly income of $2,743, to apply for SNAP because in a high-cost state like ours, policymakers realized that thousands of households were eligible for food assistance after paying for utilities, housing, child care and medical care - basic needs expenses that are part of the calculation for SNAP eligibility.

"By targeting people who gain a modest increase in earnings, this provision of the House farm bill would punish struggling working families just as they are getting back on their feet," said Claire Lane, Director of the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition. "It would make it harder for thousands of low-income working families to put food the table for their kids, even as they struggle to afford expenses like child care and rent."

The proposal to restrict categorical eligibility is included in the 2018 farm bill that recently passed the House Agriculture Committee. It would create what's known as a "benefit cliff," meaning that a family close to the income threshold that accepts a small wage increase or starts logging more hours at their job would lose all its SNAP benefits if that pushes their earnings above the federal threshold.

"This proposal punishes people for working harder," said Christina Wong, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for Northwest Harvest. "It stands in direct contrast to the House Agriculture Committee Chairman's stated goal of encouraging work through the farm bill."

The proposal is one of several cuts and changes to SNAP in the House farm bill that, together, would take away or cut benefits for more than one million households - and two million people - nationwide.

"SNAP helps nearly 930,000 people across Washington cover the costs of food, and this proposed farm bill would only increase hunger and food insecurity by making it more difficult for families to afford a basic diet," Wong said. "We need a farm bill that supports Washingtonians and strengthens SNAP, not weakens it."