PORTLAND, Ore. - Proposed cuts to the program most people know as food stamps are the hot topic in Congress this week.
On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee is marking up its version of a new Farm Bill; Wednesday, it's the House Agriculture Committee.
The Senate proposal trims the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by slightly more than $4 billion in the next ten years, but the House version would cut it by $21 billion.
According to Jeff Kleen, public policy advocate with the Oregon Food Bank, they'll be watching the only Oregonian on either ag committee, Rep. Kurt Schrader.
"His staff talked with us about proposing an amendment that would dramatically lower the SNAP cuts that are currently proposed," says Kleen. "So we definitely appreciate those efforts to minimize the SNAP cuts."
Some of the proposed savings would come from changing eligibility requirements, to make food stamps available only for the poorest families and restricting their use for people juggling low-wage jobs and high basic living expenses.
Kleen says the Food Bank doesn't support that change, because the current rules have worked well for people on the edge and still recovering from the recession.
"We know a lot of people are without health insurance, facing a lot of out-of-pocket expenses," he explains. "This allows us to serve those families earning income, but still not able to keep up with the high cost of living in Oregon."
The Oregon Department of Human Services estimates almost 91,000 Oregonians would no longer be eligible for SNAP benefits, about one-third of them children, if the House version of the Farm Bill passes.
Kleen added that SNAP already is being trimmed this fall, as stimulus funding that was allocated during the recession expires at the end of October.
See the Oregon Food Bank's analysis of the proposed SNAP cuts at OregonFoodBank.org.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this story.