Faso takes heat for SNAP remarks

REGION — Congressman John Faso has been pushing for reforms to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and in so doing, has linked the program to drug offenders. He told a Republican gathering in Ulster County two weeks ago that sheriffs in his district tell him that “every drug dealer they arrest has a SNAP card in his pocket.” He then said part of problem is that drug dealers don’t declare income.

About 42 million people in the United States collect SNAP benefits, and in the 19th Congressional District, the number is 73,830. A number of organizations have spoken out against Faso for wanting to cut benefits and force more people out of the SNAP program.

Peter Cook, executive director of New York State Council of Churches, said, “The cuts in benefits, combined with additional and cumbersome work requirement rules, are designed to push more hungry people off the rolls while adding an extra layer of bureaucracy to micromanage people. We overregulate the poor and underregulate the rich. It is just wrong that we have poor people sacrificing so much in order to pay for the budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy who least need them and are not investing that money in our economy and good jobs.”

Susan Zimet, executive director of Hunger Action Network of New York State, said, “The current administration has total disdain for anyone who is not fortunate enough to be in the top 1%. The recent tax legislation benefits those who already have the best food, housing and healthcare that money can buy. And then they turn around and try to balance the budget on the back of those with little to no food, unsafe housing and no healthcare. It is immoral.”

Faso has publicly admitted that fraud in the SNAP program does not have a large impact on the SNAP budget. Still, he says, he owes it to constituents to protect taxpayer money whenever possible. Critics say that concern is misplaced.

Rashida Tyler of the state board of directors of Citizen Action of New York said, “SNAP is already an efficient program, and data show that fraud is rare. A state-level study found that for every 10,000 households participating in SNAP, only about 14 were found to have committed fraud. If one is truly concerned with ensuring those who are needy are helped, they would be fighting to provide jobs that pay a living wage, ensuring that no child goes hungry, and helping to provide greater access to programs such as SNAP that have been proven to lift families out of poverty, instead of trying to cut them.”

Others say Faso’s view of people is similar to President Donald Trump’s. Reverend Erica Baron said, “The fact that in a nation as wealthy as ours there are even people who need this benefit at all is an indictment of our collective moral values. Especially when we consider that 75% of SNAP beneficiaries who are able to work are working or looking for work. The fact that you can work a full-time job in the United States and still not make enough to live on is appalling. ”

According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, the tax legislation passed in December 2017 will result in $84 billion in savings for the richest 1% of U.S. households in 2019, while the current SNAP program for 2019 is expected to cost only $58 billion.

The Agricultural Act of 2018, or the farm bill, passed in the House Agricultural Committee on April 18 with only Republican votes. The vote by the full House and a vote by the Senate have yet to be scheduled. The 2014 farm bill expires at the end of September.


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