LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
FRANKFORT — The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed along party lines a measure Thursday night slashing food stamp spending by $40 billion.
The bill passed 217-210, with two Democrats voting for the bill and one Republican voting against it. All five of Kentucky’s Republican congressmen voted for the measure; Democrat John Yarmuth voted no.
Among those 217 aye votes was Kentucky’s 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Somerset, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee who represents the second poorest congressional district in the country. Just last month, Rogers told CNHI, “I’m going to protect that program, whatever it takes.”
Rogers released a statement Thursday night shortly after the vote saying the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) “desperately needs reform and restructuring,” but promising the House bill won’t deny the truly needy and eligible residents of his district food stamps.
The House bill still spends more than $700 billion over 10 years but would cut spending by $40 billion over the same period while requiring “able-bodied adults” under 50 with no dependents to find a job or enroll in training programs to receive benefits while limiting those benefits to a period of three months.
According to a spokeswoman for Rogers, those changes close loopholes in eligibility established by the economic stimulus program which has expired and also restore work requirements waived by the Obama administration during the height of the recession.
Danielle Smoot said the changes represent only about a 5 percent cut in total program benefits. She said Rogers is “confident that those in his district who really need assistance will still get it.”
But Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Economic Policy Center, said the measure will cut off food assistance to 88,000 “very low income Kentuckians” who can’t find work. Bailey said there are three unemployed people for every available job, making it virtually impossible for many food stamp recipients to find jobs.