Food Stamps
A grocery store advertises that they accept food stamps in the South Bronx on September 19, 2013 in New York City. According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, over a quarter-million people in the South Bronx are living in poverty, making the 16th Congressional District the poorest in the nation. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Congress is in the midst of debating a new bill that would result in $40 billion being cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This short-sighted, ill-timed, and poorly thought-out bill would heartlessly tear the safety net out from under the 50 million Americans struggling to put food on the table while offering nothing in return. My colleagues considering voting for this bill are about to deal a painful blow to those most in need at a time of continuing economic hardship for the nation. This borders on unconscionable.

SNAP is one without a doubt one of the finest pieces of government assistance Congress has ever put together. Every year, hard-working Americans trying to make ends meet are given the assistance they need to make sure their families don’t go hungry. These are Americans working or trying to find work who just need a little extra help to make sure their children aren’t going to bed hungry at night. Furthermore, studies performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that families on SNAP engage in better meal planning, helping those children get the nutrition they desperately need.

Already, we have too many Americans living at or below the poverty line. The proposed cuts to SNAP would mean that assistance would dry up even as so many Americans are still feeling the sting of the recession. These cuts will force those Americans down even deeper. Up to 4 million people would go hungry every day, and 210,000 young kids would no longer be able to pay for school lunches. The importance of SNAP cannot be understated. In many cases it is the only thing standing between a child having food or not, and it has been conclusively shown that this can make all the difference in motivation and attentiveness in school. By cutting SNAP, we are cutting the potential of these children to succeed.

In these times of economic hardship, we should not be punishing those benefiting from the program. The recipients of SNAP are frequently underemployed and trying to find better, stable employment so they can provide for themselves. The program offers them a chance to do that without fear that their families will starve. How can we, knowing how desperate the situation is for so many Americans as our economy still recovers, vote in favor of taking that program away from them? If we are not working to help those most in need of our help, then who are we working for?

It would be nothing short of immoral on our part to act so callously towards so many millions of our citizens. This is not a partisan issue to be debated in terms of dollars and cents. These are people’s lives – people depending on their Representatives in Congress to do the right thing. I have fought long and hard to see that these benefits continue for those who need them. My own district has many who rely on the assistance SNAP provides, and I will not back down in my duty to my constituents.

At a time when we should be focusing on the creation of new jobs and supporting the Americans who need it, we are instead voting on whether or not to cut the legs out from under them. This is not what we were sent to Congress for, and I will firmly oppose this bill and any like it that serve only to further sink Americans into poverty instead of working towards lifting them out.