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Reality Check: The Debate Over Food Stamps

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Republicans in the U.S. House are promising to swiftly bring a food stamp bill up for a vote.

That’s after they stripped food stamps from the 5-year farm bill…and then failed to pass the farm bill, too.

Republicans claim food stamps are magnets for waste and fraud. And Democrats say the GOP doesn’t want to feed the poor.

Here are the facts:

A record 47 million Americans used food stamps last year.

But it’s not true, as Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi claims, that Republicans are killing the popular federal nutrition program that feeds poor families.

“You are taking food out of the mouths of your own poor constituents,” Pelosi said last week.

That’s false.

The Republican vote to take food stamps out of the farm bill won’t end the program now. The Senate won’t accept it, and the president won’t sign it.

If Congress does not pass a farm bill by September — when funding expires — the food stamp program will likely be temporarily extended as it is now without cuts.

What you need to know is that food stamps are designed for the working poor. An eligible family of four at 165 percent of the federal poverty level earns less than $38,033.

The average Minnesota recipient gets about $115.98 a month.

And it’s not true – as Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann recently claimed — that most of the $80 billion cost is for government salaries and pensions.

“Seventy cents of every dollar that’s supposed to go to the poor? It actually doesn’t,” said Bachmann at the national CPAC conference in March. “Seventy cents of every dollar goes to benefit the bureaucrats in Washington DC.”

In fact, federal statistics show administrative costs are 4.5 percent, shared by state and federal governments. 95.5 percent of food stamp funding goes directly to food, employment help, and nutrition education.

Even though Republicans are not killing the food stamp program, they are trying hard to cut it back.

They’ve proposed restricting benefits and time limits, and adding tougher work requirements.

So even though it’s protected now, it’s very possible it won’t be in the future.

Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:

USDA Food Stamp Program
http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap

http://www.obpa.usda.gov/30fns2013notes.pdf

Number of Americans on Food Stamps
http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/34SNAPmonthly.htm

MN Family Nutrition Program
https://edocs.dhs.state.mn.us/lfserver/Public/DHS-3179-ENG

FAQ MN Food Stamps
http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased&dDocName=dhs16_149062

Food Stamp Eligibility/MN
http://www.extension.umn.edu/ResourceManagement/components/DW2-poverty-income-guidelines-binder.pdf

Avg Monthly Benefits of Food Stamp Recipients
http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/avg-monthly-food-stamp-benefits/

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