Mid-Missourians Weigh Potential Effects of Food Stamp Cuts

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COLUMBIA - As the U.S. House moves forward Thursday with a vote on a bill that would cut billions from the national food stamps program, some mid-Missourians raised concerns over how it could impact the state's poorest citizens.

"I'm supporting a family of three on a low wage job and we can't afford the food we need without food stamps," said Columbia resident Jack Bhutod. "Hunger is not a game for us. We need to eat."

Bhutod and several others from the group Grass Roots Organizing, or GRO, gathered outside the Boone County Family Support Division office to call on lawmakers to vote against the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office released estimates showing the bill would cut almost $40 billion out of the Supplemental Nutrion Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next ten years.  

U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, said to KOMU 8 News she plans to vote in favor of the bill.

"This bill helps people get back to work," Hartzler said. "It also cuts down on the waste, fraud and abuse in the SNAP program."

Hartzler said the bill restores previous reform in the food stamps program that requires able-bodied adults without dependents to work at least 20 hours per week in order to receive SNAP benefits.

"I think it makes sense and it gets people back in the workplace," Hartzler said. "We're still providing food stamps for the children, the elderly and the disabled."

But Bhutod said the real reform needed isn't within the country's welfare system.

"Why are you cutting our food stamps when there are billionaires who aren't paying their fair share in taxes?" Bhutod said. "I'd say the real abuse is within the tax system and the fat-cat Wall Street elite."

According to recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Missouri ranks second in the nation in percentage of households with "very low food security."

"What we are saying in this bill is that everyone should fill out the application for food stamps and if they reach the qualifications then absolutely they will get it," Hartzler said. "But we're saying people who don't meet those qualifications shouldn't be wasting taxpayer dollars."

The U.S. House is expected to vote on the measure Thursday afternoon.

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