by Anonymous, a McCormack Graduate School student
Within the United States there has been an increasing level of opposition regarding one of the most important government programs for those in need, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP benefits are managed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and administered by state agencies. Within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Department of Transitional Assistance provides this food assistance to low-income households. SNAP benefits are essential in bridging the gap for those with low income, part-time employees, the elderly, the disabled, and other households in need.
Twenty years ago, welfare reform passed, transforming the welfare entitlement program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) into the grant program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), TAFDC in Massachusetts. TANF gives states flexibility in the ways in which they allocate grant money and set the program eligibility standards. In fact, states can raise standards to decrease program eligibility and use funds for other approved programs.
Similarly, SNAP has become a target for reform, just as AFDC was leading up to welfare reform. However, unlike AFDC and TANF, SNAP benefits are specifically for food. It is SNAP’s status as an entitlement program that guarantees all of those who meet the federal qualifications will be provided with food assistance benefits, regardless of the federal budget. Food and water are basic necessities of life – an entitlement.
The current administration and the Republican-majority Congress have been working to revamp the SNAP program. Allegations of widespread fraud by non-citizens, the addicted, and the “lazy” fuel their plans. Additionally, the increased numbers of program participants and resulting increases in the federal SNAP budget are seen as examples of a ballooning budget and further waste of taxpayers’ money. The proposed solution includes annual budget cuts for SNAP that would lead to its transformation from an entitlement to a grant program by as soon as 2021.
President Trump and our Congress should focus on the socioeconomic reasons that create influxes in clients needing SNAP, not on the program itself. Heavy reliance on SNAP represents an assortment of other problems including, but not limited to, low minimum wage, housing costs, education, and additional socioeconomic factors.
SNAP provides an essential resource to those in need. It is essential that these proposals to revamp it be stopped. Although I am not worried about the way in which Massachusetts would allocate resources, it is the future of food assistance within other parts of the country that is in jeopardy.
SNAP, a product of Lydon B. Johnson’s Great Society and earlier pilot programs initiated by John F. Kennedy, is a safety net depended upon by our friends, families, and fellow Americans. Policymakers must keep this in mind when altering this program.
Anonymous is a SNAP supporter and studies public administration at UMass Boston’s John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.
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