With the future of federal funding for the food stamps program uncertain, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is lobbying two local congressmen who recently voted to cut funds for the program to reconsider their stances.
Federation staff members last week led a delegation of hunger advocates in a meeting with U.S. Jim Gerlach (R-District 6) in his Chester County office. Federation is also working on arranging a meeting with U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-District 8) of Bucks County.
Both members in June voted in favor of a version of the farm bill that included more than $20 billion in cuts to the food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP. Local Democrats Chaka Fattah, Allyson Schwartz and Bob Brady, as well as Republican Pat Meehan, voted against the package.
The bill was ultimately defeated and Congress appears to be at an impasse regarding SNAP funding. The U.S. Senate had already passed a version of the farm bill that included $4 billion in SNAP cuts.
“We have decided to focus our energies on educating those two elected officials,” said Brian Gralnick, who directs the Center for Social Responsibility at Federation and who, along with Robin Schatz, the organization’s director of government affairs, arranged the recent meeting with Gerlach.
In an email response to questions about the issue, Gerlach wrote: “I have consistently voted to move this process forward in order to enact long-term and sufficient reforms to both agriculture subsidies and nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) to provide the certainty that both our farmers and constituents need.”
Fitzpatrick said that the farm bill’s failed passage highlights the partisan divide in Congress.
“I look forward to returning to the nation’s capital to work on finding a common sense solution that attracts support from both parties so we can make sure those who need assistance are getting it, while at the same time ensure taxpayer funds are being utilized in the best way possible,” he said in an email.
SNAP provides assistance to needy families in the form of about $35 a week in vouchers, per individual.
In the last fiscal year alone, SNAP provided Pennsylvanians with $2.78 billion in food vouchers. Cuts to the program that were enacted by Congress back in 2010 are expected to go into effect Nov. 1. That would mean a $183 million reduction in available vouchers for Pennsylvanians over an 11-month period, according to the Coalition Against Hunger.
Gralnick said that if Congress imposes further cuts, it would put an undue strain on already struggling low-income families.