Food Stamps Slashed to Pay for Teacher Jobs Bill
Updated at 1:50 p.m. ET
Democrats are poised to pass a bill today that will provide $26 billion in additional funding to help states cover Medicaid expenses and teacher salaries. To pay for the bill, however, they are accelerating the scale-back of food stamp payments -- at a time when a record number of Americans are relying on food stamps.
In an unusual move, the House of Representatives interrupted its August recess this week to return to Washington to pass this aid bill. The legislation, which passed in the Senate last week, extends programs enacted in the stimulus package, with $16 billion for state health care programs and $10 billion to help school boards avoid teacher layoffs.
Democrats convinced two Republicans in the Senate to support the measure in part by ensuring it would not add to the deficit. That was in part accomplished by cutting food stamp payments beginning in 2014 by $12 billion. The cut would bring funding for the food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, back to pre-stimulus levels ahead of schedule.
Liberal Democrats say they are committed to restoring the funding, the Hill reports.
"This is a bitter pill to swallow," Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) reportedly said in a statement, noting a spike in participation in the last year. She added, however, that states "desperately need" the $26 billion aid package to save jobs and avoid cuts to essential services.
"As you can imagine, for me personally, it's like 'Sophie's Choice,' " she added.
DeLauro said she would "absolutely" fight to restore the funds, according to the Hill. A spokesperson for Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) also reportedly said the congressman is "considering legislation to restore the cuts while finding another offset."
The federal government reported last week that the number of Americans receiving food stamps rose to a record 40.8 million in May. Participation in the food stamp program has set records for 18 straight months.
Dozens of state and local charities, like the Texas Food Book Network and the Houston Food Bank, have asked Congress to vote against today's bill, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Democrats contend the $26 billion aid package could save the jobs of more than 300,000 teachers, police officers and other public servants. Republicans, however, say the measure only prolongs state funding imbalances and does nothing to avert future layoffs.
"Everyone knows that state budgets have been hit hard and no one wants teachers to lose their jobs. But where do the bailouts end?" House Republican Leader John Boehner said in a statement. "The American people are fed up with the Democrats' 'stimulus' spending and they certainly don't want another job-killing tax hike on U.S. job-creators."Update: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell added in a statement that the stimulus was supposed to be "targeted and temporary."
"It's time to change course, it's time to do something that will actually create lasting private sector jobs and get us moving in the right direction," he said.
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