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70 mayors tell Trump that cutting food stamps will "harm our economy"

Trump plan would cut millions from food stamps
Trump plan would cut millions from food stamp... 01:49
  • 70 mayors across the U.S. are urging the Trump administration to drop its plan to cut more than 3 million people from the federal food-stamp program.
  • Shrinking the number of food-stamp recipients would hurt local economies by reducing spending that supports local stores, employees and other businesses, the mayors said.
  • Every $1 billion increase in food-stamp benefits creates 8,900 full-time jobs, according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Mayors across the U.S. are warning the Trump administration that its plan to push more than 3 million people out of the federal food-stamp program will harm children, seniors and other vulnerable people, as well as damage local economies. 

About 70 mayors -- representing cities as diverse as Huntington, West Virginia, and Los Angeles -- signed an August 21 letter expressing their "strong opposition" to a rule proposed last month by the Trump administration that would eliminate automatic enrollment in the program for poor families who receive welfare benefits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the change would close a "loophole" in the so-called Supplemental Nutrition Benefits Program (SNAP), saving $2.5 billion in government spending.  

Depriving millions of needy people of food aid is likely to hurt vulnerable populations, the mayors noted in their letter, which was released by the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Wednesday. About 4 of 5 households receiving food stamps include either a child, a senior or a person with a disability, they noted. And shrinking the program would likely hurt local economies because there would be fewer food-stamp recipients, whose spending supports local stores, employees and other businesses.

"Every additional $5 dollars in SNAP benefits generates up to $9 dollars of economic activity, and every $1 billion increase in SNAP benefits results in 8,900 full-time equivalent jobs," the mayors' letter noted. "We urge you to abandon this proposal."

The purported loophole that the Agriculture Department wants to eliminate is related to the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, or TANF. Families that qualify for TANF can automatically receive food-stamp benefits in 43 states. 

While income limits for TANF programs vary by state, the welfare program is typically restricted to low-income families. For instance, Georgia requires a family of three to earn less than $784 per month, or $9,408 per year, and have less than $1,000 in assets.

Taking food from children?

About 265,000 children will lose access to free school meals as part of the cuts, according to an analysis from the anti-hunger group Share Our Strength. That could have a devastating trickle-down impact on children and their futures, Lisa Davis, senior vice president of Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign, said in congressional testimony in June.

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"Loss of access to SNAP for these kids and families would ripple throughout their lives, eliminating needed nutrition at home and eligibility for free school meals as well," Davis said. A lack of food "exacerbates all the other problems they face–diminishing their academic performance, mental and physical health, over-all well-being, and dimming opportunities to escape the cycle of poverty."

Those dangers were highlighted by the mayors. "Regular access to healthy and affordable meals is one of the strongest predictors of improved school performance, better health, and sound childhood development," they wrote. "Our nation cannot remain globally competitive if our children do not have enough to eat." 

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