A mother and her children shop for groceries at the local Walmart in the outskirts of Harlan, Harlan, KY.
Photo by Peter van Agtmael/Magnum for MSNBC

How the House wants to take food off the family table

Updated

Food stamps are on the chopping block in the House, where Republicans are threatening to cut $39 billion from the program over the next decade.

But the results will be immediate. If the law passes, 3.8 million people could lose their benefits in 2014 alone, according to a report from the Congressional Budget Office. 

The cuts go even further than what Republicans first proposed – $20.5 billion – earlier this year in the Farm Bill.

The new bill also imposes additional restrictions on eligibility, like passing E-Verify, a government-run program built to determine whether job applicants are eligible to work in the United States. Critics say E-Verify is unacceptably error-prone, which can lead citizens or legal immigrants to be mistakenly identified as undocumented immigrants. Only certain kinds of immigrants are currently eligible to receive food stamps, and applicants are already required to verify their immigration status.

A spokesperson for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, the California Republican who proposed the measure, declined to identify any gaps in the current immigrant screening procedures. “He simply wants to make sure there are no gaps,” he said in an email.

A separate amendment proposed by Michigan Democrat Dan Kildee would increase funding to “food incentive programs,” which reward SNAP recipients with additional subsidies if they spend their food stamps on healthy food. A similar amendment was proposed to the original House farm bill, but was ultimately rejected. Kildee has also proposed standalone legislation with similar language, called the Local Food for Healthy Families Act.

Kildee has vocally opposed food stamp cuts for months, and he excoriated the Republicans’ latest proposal in a statement.

“SNAP is a vital program that helps to combat hunger and help put food on the table for families who find themselves falling on hard times. Republican desires to dismantle government bit-by-bit and deprive the neediest Americans of a basic necessity—food—have completely derailed the Farm Bill process, hurting family farmers and workers,” he said.

How the House wants to take food off the family table

Updated