June 22, 2018 In The News, Media

35K New Jerseyans could lose food stamps under House bill. This N.J. Republican voted yes.

WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Thursday barely managed to pass farm legislation that could cost 35,000 New Jersey residents their food stamp benefits

Rep. Tom MacArthur, a Republican, was the only Garden State lawmaker voting yes.

The Agriculture and Nutrition Act passed, 213-211, after an attempt in May to approve farm programs for the next five years crashed and burned. Twenty Republicans, including four of the five from New Jersey, voted with every House Democrat against the measure. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-10th Dist., missed the vote due to illness.

MacArthur. R-3rd Dist., also was the only New Jersey representative to support the bill last month, which failed when 30 Republicans defected.

Both the New Jersey Farm Bureau and the New Jersey Agricultural Society supported the legislation, and MacArthur cited the provisions in the bill for farmers.

“The farm bill provides much needed help to our local farms here in South Jersey, most specifically by including specialty crop grants that will directly benefit local blueberry and cranberry farmers,” he said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called it a “bold, transformative bill that will help people to move out of poverty and into lives of opportunity.

And President Donald Trump praised the measure on Twitter.

The bill would impose new restrictions on those receiving food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including work requirements and new rules on eligibility.

In addition, New Jersey and other states that have extended coverage to families whose income exceeds federal limits would no longer be allowed to do so. Instead of phasing out the benefits as incomes rise, such households automatically would lose their food stamps as soon as they exceeded the limit.

That could cost an estimated 10,000 New Jersey households, or 35,000 individuals, could lose their benefits, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive research group in Washington.

“It’s outrageous and immoral to cut programs that help feed our nation’s children,” said Rep. Donald Norcross, D-1st Dist. “It’s clear we shouldn’t be cutting SNAP benefits and should be raising wages so working men and women can buy groceries and feed their children.”

A Senate version of the farm bill does not include the new food stamp requirements, which the CBPP estimated could take away benefits from almost 1 million Americans nationwide.

“Though the bill’s proponents say they want to encourage work among more SNAP recipients, the bill is likely to leave many people who face substantial barriers to work with neither earnings nor food assistance.,” said Robert Greenstein, president of the center.

MacArthur said a provision he authored would prevent cuts in food stamps to children even if their parents face reductions due to the bill’s new work requirements.

“Children cannot go to school and learn on an empty stomach – and they should not have to come home and worry about where their next meal is going to come from,” he said.

The House action followed passage of a Republican tax bill that gave 43 percent of its benefits to the top 5 percent of taxpayers, according to the Tax Policy Center, a research group of the progressive Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution and includes experts from Democratic and Republican administrations.

Read more at NJ.com.