Last week the Senate voted to chop $12 billion from future food stamp funding in order to pay for a desperately need jobs bill. Tomorrow, the House will vote the measure through. But some progressive Democrats say they're doing so with heavy hearts and intend to find a way to restore the food stamp funding.
Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, is leading the charge to restore the funding.
Talking to the Hill, she explained her decision to vote for the bill, which offsets spending on teachers' jobs and Medicaid by chopping away at the food assistance program.
"I know that states across the nation and my own state of Connecticut also desperately need these resources to save jobs and avoid draconian cuts to essential services for low income families. As you can imagine, for me personally, it's like 'Sophie's Choice.'"
If the cuts go into effect as they're set to in 2014, a family of four will have their monthly foods assistance reduced by close to $60.
At the beginning of the year, six million people were surviving on food stamps alone, without work, unemployment insurance or any other form of income, according to the New York Times. And it's even worse in DeLauro's home state.
Earlier this year I spent weeks in Hartford, reporting on the damage of the recession. Connecticut cuts families off of the welfare, known as TANF (or, Temporary Aid to Needy Families), more quickly than any other state. As a result poor and unemployed parents, mainly single moms, have to rely disproportionately on food stamps to survive. And now that there are so few jobs, especially for low-wage workers, more women have been forced to illegally trade their food assistance for cash.
Losing $60 a month could be the difference between making rent or not. DeLauro and fellow Democrats say they'll get the funding back, but it's not clear exactly how that will happen. Annie Lowrey writes:
the House won't be able to change the bill -- it needs to give an up-or-down vote to get the funding to states as quickly as possible. (Were the House to alter the bill, the Senate would need to come back to vote on it again.) It could, however, originate a later bill restoring the funding and finding new offsets for it, and then could encourage the Senate to vote for that.
But according to Monica Potts, writing over at Tapped, it might be even more complicated than that:
Undoing the food-stamp cut would also have a ripple effect on other bills, including the Child Nutrition Act the Senate passed last week. The House still has to pass it's version of the bill, which, among other changes, would increase the funding schools get for lunch, after-school, and breakfast food programs and make it easier for students to enroll in the free-lunch program. As I noted last week, about $2 billion of the cost of that $4.5 billion bill would come from food-stamp offsets.
Congresswoman DeLauro couldn't talk to me because she's in the air flying from Connecticut to Washington for tomorrow's vote. Hopefully she has some great plan. And once she's done getting food stamps back, maybe expanding the income supports for poor families should be next on the list. TANF is up to the be reauthorized in September.