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Cramer Announces Passage of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Reform

Sep 19, 2013
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Kevin Cramer announced the U.S. House of Representatives passed reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act reforms nutrition assistance for the first time since 1996, saving 5.1 percent over 10 years. The bill reduces expenditures by enforcing eligibility requirements and eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse. Cramer spoke on the floor in support of the bill this afternoon.

Since 2008, the cost of SNAP has more than doubled from $34 billion to $74 billion. In July the House of Representatives passed a five-year farm bill consisting only of agriculture programs, leaving the nutrition programs to be considered in today’s bill. Before the two programs were separated, SNAP made up over 80% of farm bill spending.

“Now both food stamps and agriculture programs have been given a clear and transparent debate in Congress. These reforms save a modest 5.1 percent over a ten year period by simply enforcing existing eligibility requirements for food stamps. They are critical if we are going to protect a program intended to serve our most vulnerable citizens including seniors, children, and the disabled,” said Cramer.

Restoring the integrity of nutrition assistance

The integrity and viability of the program are restored through several cost-saving measures which only impact able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 50 without dependents, or those whose income and asset levels exceed existing thresholds under current law.

First, the bill requires states to once again follow the 1996 welfare reform law, which has been waived by the Obama Administration for most states since 2009. Under this law, able-bodied adults without dependents will continue to receive nutrition assistance provided they obtain employment, participate in job training, or perform community service.

Second, a loophole is closed which currently extends food stamp benefits to people who do not meet the income or asset requirements in current law. The Obama Administration now encourages “categorical eligibility” at the state level, which automatically qualifies individuals for SNAP if they participate in other assistance programs including toll-free hotlines or the receipt of a brochure, regardless of income or asset levels. The bill closes the categorical eligibility loophole except for households receiving assistance from three specific programs: Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or a state-run general assistance program.

Relation to farm bill

Since entering Congress, Cramer has worked to ensure passage of the right farm bill for producers and consumers. After a version supported by Cramer including both farm programs and SNAP received only 24 Democrat votes and failed to pass the House in June, Republican leadership advanced a new strategy to pass the two programs separately without relying on votes from Democrats. The agriculture provisions passed the House on July 11 in the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013, including the Cramer wetlands amendment which prohibits the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) from subjecting farmers to higher requirements for wetlands restoration based on its own arbitrary judgment of land quality.

Cramer helped fend off an amendment to the FARRM Act which would have created a problematic scenario for North Dakota farmers by tying eligibility for crop insurance to compliance with conservation programs for the first time since 1996. Cramer led a coalition opposed to the amendment along with Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas. The two programs are coupled only in the Senate version of the bill.

“Sometimes better takes longer. Whether on crop insurance or wetlands restoration, the House farm bill is superior to the Senate version. As the bill heads into conference committee, I am hopeful conferees will deliver the right farm policies,” Cramer said.