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‘SNAP’ judgment makes budget unpalatable

It wasn’t that long ago when this president was still a candidate courting the hard-working people of America, suggesting that America had fallen on hard times and that, together, we needed to make America great again.

However, the release of the President’s budget titled, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” is a lesson in doublespeak – considering it starts by destroying a firm foundation already in place.

America is nothing without her people, yet this budget slashes $600 billion from Medicaid over the next decade for our most vulnerable Americans – children, the poor, the elderly and the disabled.

Piling onto the impact on low-income Americans, this budget also harvests out $192 billion in nutritional assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that will all but ensure more empty plates for the hungry. It is deeply troubling to see that building a border wall is not only prioritized, but earmarked for funding over building up our citizens who can actually participate in making our country great.

The pass-the-buck nature of this budget sends a clear message to the states – if you want it, then you pay for it. Here in Ohio, a 25 percent cost share for SNAP, as required by this budget, would represent about $600 million annually. But as our state legislators are grappling with currently, the State is required to pass a balanced budget, and that $600 million SNAP match per year would have to come from somewhere – either from cuts to services elsewhere, or increased taxes. Budgets are meant to add up, align and make sense of our priorities. This one doesn’t.

In Ohio, more than 84 percent of all SNAP participants are children, seniors or people living with

disabilities. SNAP is one of our most powerful and cost-effective tools to strengthen the local economy while improving public health. SNAP not only reduces poverty and hunger; it also improves opportunity. Children who participate in SNAP have better health, education and employment outcomes.

If this proposal passes, what will happen to households already living on the brink of poverty when they lose 25 percent of their SNAP benefits? For the 200,000 seniors in Ohio that rely on SNAP, how long will they be able to age in place or avoid costly health crises without access to basic nutritious foods?

Not only does this proposal have ramifications for struggling families, but it will also impact grocers and retailers in Ohio, especially those in small, rural markets. How will they be able to keep their doors open for all of their customers when they lose over $600 million in annual revenue from SNAP benefits?

Our statewide hunger relief network does everything we can, with the help of generous donors and

volunteers, to help put food on the table. But we can’t make up for these losses – a 25 percent cut to

Ohio’s SNAP benefits represents more than two times as much as all of the food our charitable network distributes in a year.

It is unconscionable to believe these recommendations could actually be viewed as plausible solutions – as potentially having a puncher’s chance of winning approvals from elected officials who represent real people in real need. If so, summer recess could so be the most unpleasant homecoming this Congress has ever experienced.

Fortunately, a budget is merely a starting point. This shot across the bow should awaken Congress and the rest of America that this will not be the end game.

We cannot cut our way to prosperity. We cannot leave our most vulnerable citizens behind.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt is the executive director for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

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