September 13, 2013
As the Director for Public Witness at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I write to urge you to vote against the House proposal to cut SNAP (formerly Food Stamps) by $40 billion.
As you must know, SNAP is one of this country’s most important anti-hunger programs. The cuts in this bill could leave up to six million people without vital food assistance. In a still weak economy, SNAP has helped millions of struggling families put food on the table. This cut is so extreme that churches and charity would have to nearly double the amount of food assistance they provide every year for the next ten years to make up the difference. Such a severe cut to one of our most effective tools against hunger is unacceptable and cruel.
We believe that alleviating hunger and eliminating its causes is at the very heart of the church's life. When the world tolerates the vicious suffering of hungry people, the church is called to speak out and share all that we have. But as I say, we cannot meet this great need alone. The most recent General Assembly of the PC(USA) not only affirmed that government is good and ordained by God for the maintenance of the common good, but also called for “a stronger social safety net for poor and low-income families” including protection of Food Stamps and other programs that serve the most vulnerable.
Far too many Americans rely on SNAP today, but high participation is not from a surge of laziness, but rather to high unemployment and a sluggish economic recovery. Over 30 percent of SNAP households are working households. The real problem is the economy and the fact that too many jobs do not pay enough for parents to put food on the table and provide for their children. Today, 11.5 million people remain unemployed, and 4.2 million people have been looking for work for over 26 weeks. Moreover, since the recession ended, nearly three out of five jobs created have been low-wage jobs, paying less than $14 an hour. Through 2020, 28 percent of all workers are expected to be in jobs that leave them below the poverty line even when working full time. Our government should not punish people who are doing all they can to find a job and earn a living in this weak economy.
Cutting vital nutrition assistance from children, seniors, low-wage workers, and persons with disabilities will not address larger economic trends or create jobs with adequate wages. Instead, this type of bill will punish those people struggling to make ends meet.
We believe that “reconciliation...through Jesus Christ makes it plain that enslaving poverty in a world of abundance is an intolerable violation of God’s good creation.” This bill is one such intolerable violation. I urge you to vote no on the bill.
The Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II
Director for Public Witness
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)