Farm Bill and SNAP
IPP Statement: Congressmen Should Help Public Understand SNAP
Statement for Farm Bill Forum
Hosts: the Honorable Collin Peterson and the Honorable Dave Loebsack


Congressmen Peterson and Loebsack:

Thank you for holding this event today. I am Mike Owen, the executive director of the Iowa Policy Project here in Iowa City. We are a nonpartisan and nonprofit research organization. Our role is to inform Iowans about the public policy choices before them.

In these brief comments I simply would encourage you to do the same, and to demand it of your colleagues. We need to get past the destructive political spin that has dogged public discussion about Food Stamps ó or SNAP. Help all Americans see the realities about this program.

If there are improvements that can be made to better serve people who need assistance, by all means letís hear about those ideas. But let there be no mistake of the critical importance of this support for low-income people in Iowa and across the country.

I challenge you to assure that people know most SNAP recipients are seniors or children who canít work, and that most SNAP recipients are in working families. People can work very hard jobs, at long hours, and be paid so little that they qualify for SNAP.

I challenge you to make those of us who donít need Food Assistance more aware of those who do. In Iowa, the number of recipients was 422,000 in June.

Those who would cut SNAP should acknowledge that benefits already are set to be cut this fall with the loss of the temporary benefit increase under the Recovery Act. This cut has been projected to be the equivalent of assistance for 14 meals a month for a family of four.

Help folks understand that weíre talking about a benefit that is exactly what is advertised: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance. No one is getting rich ó or full ó living on SNAP when it provides less than $1.30 per person per meal. Common sense tells us the incentive is to get a job that pays better than one that qualifies you for SNAP, and to be able to feed your family ó if you can find that job.

And please, explain that SNAP is accountable, with an error rate that would be the envy of many private businesses. Help them see that it helps the local economy ó in the 17-county region* that includes Johnson County in the month of June, it brought over $9 million that we can safely assume was spent right here.

Thank you for your presence today, and your consideration of these perspectives.

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* Editor's Note: This passage has been edited to reflect a corrected report for June 2013 from the Iowa Department of Human Services.