US poor set to lose food stamps
October 29, 2005 - 10:43AM
With more than 38 million Americans too poor to buy adequate food, the US Congress has begun to take away the food stamps many of them receive.
The Republican majority on the House Agriculture Committee has approved budget cuts that will take "food stamps" away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children.
The action came as the US Government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they can't afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of seven million in five years.
The number represents nearly 12 per cent of US households.
Food stamps are coupons distributed to low-income people and redeemable at grocery stories for food.
The cuts, approved by the Republican-controlled committee on a party-line vote, are part of an effort by Republicans to curb federal spending by $US50 billion ($65.7 billion).
The food and agriculture cuts would reduce spending by $US3.7 billion, including $US844 million on nutrition, $US760 million on conservation and $US212 million on payments to US farmers.
The $US574 million reduction in food stamp spending is estimated to shut up to 300,000 people out of the program.
The restriction also could take free meals away from an estimated 40,000 school children, because children in many states are automatically eligible for school meals when they get food stamps, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The White House proposed the restriction earlier this year.
The bill would also raise the waiting period for food stamps for legal immigrants from five to seven years.
Senate Republican leaders are seeking to curb spending by $US39 billion, and have been more reluctant to cut government benefit programs.
The committee voted to shave $US212 million from direct payments to farmers, a one per cent reduction over the next four years. Cuts to commodity programs totalled $US1 billion and include repeal of a federal cotton subsidy to comply with a World Trade Organisation ruling against the program.