Working families in Clark County have a lot to lose in the negotiations over the federal farm bill happening in Washington, D.C.
Recently, Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway put forward a proposal that would increase hunger and hardship by cutting food assistance that helps many struggling Americans, including moms and kids right here in Clark County. As this proposal moves forward, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, should stand up for families and reject it.
Even though SNAP’s average benefits are only $1.33 per person per meal in Washington, the program has a huge impact on keeping families out of poverty and getting kids off to a healthy start. In fact, SNAP benefits one out of every eight workers in Washington state and keeps food on the table for more than 20,000 households in Clark County and nearly 45,000 households in the 3rd Congressional District, most of whom are families with kids and many of which are households headed by women.
The vast majority of families who rely on food assistance are working, but do not earn enough to make ends meet. Especially because wages in Clark County lag behind the rest of the state, families here use SNAP to supplement their wage income and keep their families secure.
If the cuts to food assistance proposed by Congressman Conaway go forward, we will see increased hunger and malnutrition in Clark County. Taking away food assistance and using the money to pay for an unproven, woefully underfunded job training and education program will do little to help people in Clark County get jobs.
Families, regardless of their income, are trying to do the best for their kids. This plan would just mean families will try to get by with fewer resources — and may need to delay or pass on other family expenses, like medications, rent, or car repairs. Charities and other food assistance programs — like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women and Children, or WIC — will not be able to make up the difference. Moms and kids will simply go hungry if they lose their SNAP benefits.
In addition, these cuts would mean a greater administrative burden for families and staff at places like Sea Mar’s clinics in Vancouver and Washougal who currently quickly qualify pregnant women, moms and kids for the additional foods — like baby food, milk, and eggs — through WIC once they verify that they are already qualified for SNAP food assistance.
New rules and eligibility requirements for SNAP mean these moms and kids will have to fill out additional paperwork and possibly wait for needed food assistance.
We ask Rep. Herrera Beutler to think about the hardworking moms and kids of Clark County and stand firm against Conaway’s proposal to cut food assistance. Instead of making it harder for working families to put food on the table, Congress should focus on strengthening SNAP and making meaningful investments in proven job training and education programs.
Jennifer Dickison is the WIC Coordinator for Sea Mar Community Health Centers, the sole provider of the Women, Infants and Children food and nutrition program to thousands of moms and kids in Clark County. Misha Werschkul is the executive director of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, a nonpartisan research organization that works to advance prosperity for all Washingtonians.