Republican House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers of Kentucky says he will work to protect constituents in need from the proposed $40 billion in cuts to the federal food stamps program he voted for.
But the longtime GOP lawmaker argues too many “able-bodied” adults were allowed to benefit from the program under President Obama’s watch.
Rogers joined 216 other Republicans to slash the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program on Thursday.
At issue for Rogers and other Republicans is the increase of Americans on food stamps in recent years. Those critics argue that is the result of changes to the rules of eligibility made by the Obama administration.
From Rogers’s office:
“SNAP desperately needs reform and restructuring, but I recognize this is a vital program for transitioning families in southern and eastern Kentucky.
Under President Obama’s watch 1.7 million more able-bodied adults have started collecting federal food aid. Without Congressional consent, the President also removed bipartisan common-sense work requirements to maintain eligibility.
“This has forced struggling children, seniors, veterans, and families, clearly in need of assistance, to compete against scammers, lottery winners, gamblers and others who may be able to work, but simply refuse. H.R. 3102 seeks to correct these abuses and errors without cutting food assistance to our neighbors who need help the most.
Over 820,000 Kentuckians receive food stamp assistance and most—over 67,000 households—live in Roger’s district.
Supporters of the program say the rise of food stamp recipients is due to the recession, which has exacerbated hunger issues in rural parts of the country such as Eastern Kentucky.
“The rate of SNAP recipients in his district is double the U.S. average,” says Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economy Policy. “And that has to do with the longstanding poverty and economic challenges that region faces. It’s a bedrock of people’s ability just to meet their basic needs.”
But Rogers argued in his statement that the reforms only speak to those who don’t need the benefits.
“If you’re a laid off coal miner seeking work, your family will still be eligible. If you are disabled, food assistance is there. If you’re in need of temporary aid as you are struggling in this economy, SNAP is within reach. If you’re able-bodied, under 50 and without dependents, but diligently looking for work, you can count on food aid. And if jobs are lacking in your area, community service is an option to keep your SNAP benefits,” Rogers said.