The U.S. Congress last week passed an $867 billion farm bill that does not include budget cuts or stricter eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.
A growing trade war with China churned bipartisan support for the bill, which allocates subsidies to American farmers. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it into law.
The bill does add measures to ensure that those receiving food assistance cannot do so in more than one state at a time, and also calls for the launch of a pilot program to verify the income of recipients.
Food stamps have long been in the crosshairs of conservative politicians.
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said passing the farm bill was important for Georgia’s $73 billion agriculture industry.
“Growing up working on my family’s farm, I learned at an early age that agriculture is not just a business — it's a way of life for many people across our country,” Perdue said in a statement.
But, he added, the bill is “not perfect.”
“It fails to make common-sense changes that would help put Americans receiving food assistance back to work,” Perdue added. “However, I am encouraged by the willingness of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary (Sonny) Perdue to deal with this issue.”
Republicans had sought to tighten eligibility by expanding work requirements for recipients up to 59 years of age from 49 years, and also parents with children ages 6 to 12.
Had these proposals been included in the bill, it could have affected up to 1.1 million households receiving food assistance, according to an estimate by Mathematica Policy Research.
About 9 percent of households in Hall County receive food stamps, according to U.S. census 2017 one-year estimates.
Across Georgia, about 1.7 million people use food stamps, and about one in eight of all Americans use the program.
According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, 45 percent of recipients in Georgia are children, 18 percent are elderly or disabled, and 23 percent live in rural areas.
Adding eligibility requirements, the left-leaning GBPI argues, fail to “recognize the steep barriers low-income people must overcome to find work.”