Sen. Mike Johanns has signed on as co-sponsor for the Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act. Advocates for low-income families, veterans, children and the homeless are hoping Johanns will reconsider this decision.
The bill would cut $36 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and is designed to "eliminate loopholes, duplicative programs and unnecessary bonuses" and to target "waste, fraud and abuse." The state of Nebraska is one of the premier SNAP systems in the entire country when it comes to ensuring the integrity of the program and is rewarded with federal dollars on a nearly annual basis for its efficient administration of the program. The vast majority of states do an excellent job of preventing waste with this efficient and effective program.
According to Feeding America's Map the Meal Gap 2012, there are 243,790 food-insecure people living in Nebraska. More than 21 percent of those food-insecure people are kids younger than 18. The SNAP Program is an excellent tool to help people reach an adequate level of food security, which in turn enables people to hold full-time jobs, achieve in school, graduate from high school and become productive Nebraskans. Good nutrition benefits our collective health, and our economic health, as well.
Rural areas are disproportionately likely to have persistent high child poverty; 81 percent of counties with persistent child poverty are rural. Unemployment in rural areas is comparable to urban areas, but median household incomes lag far behind, leaving families without the resources to obtain an adequate, nutritious diet.
Hardworking Nebraskans and the communities in which they live would benefit from the SNAP Program remaining at its current level of funding. Nebraska families, seniors and veterans will find themselves going without if these SNAP cuts come to pass.
Nebraska benefits from healthy federal nutrition programs. The National Farmers Union found that $1 billion of retail food purchases by SNAP recipients generates close to 3,000 farm jobs. A SNAP dollar in Nebraska is believed to generate $1.86 worth of economic activity.
Many Nebraskans were struggling before the recession, and many more are struggling now. Helping people have increased access to healthy foods is the right thing to do, and good government business. If all Nebraskans have access to healthy nutritional choices, our communities will be healthier and we will reduce our long-term health care costs considerably.
There is no question that difficult decisions must be made to reduce America's deficit spending, and there are any number of advocates and organizations that will put pressure on our leaders to find cuts that don't affect their programs or clients.
These next budget years promise to be trying for all of us. Reducing the dollars in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will take dollars out of the state's economy in the short term and will cost us much more in the long term, when considering health care costs and the price food insecurity extracts from our communities. It is our hope that deficit reduction will not be achieved on the backs of those that already are suffering.
We respectfully request that Johanns reconsider his decision to co-sponsor the Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act.