Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Republican Leader Don Bacon Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Subcommittee Hearing: Examining the SNAP Benefit Cliff

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Washington, July 12, 2021 | comments
Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Chair Hayes. And many thanks to our panel of witnesses before us today.

I appreciate this hearing; I think we can all agree there are merits to the issue, and even though we may diverge on solutions, it is important we hear one another out and understand there is actually no one way to mitigate every penalty and disincentive associated with our safety net.

For at least a generation, we have been talking about welfare cliffs. We have been waging this war on poverty, but with little progress beyond an expansive—and at times, perverse—web of programs and trillions in spending. Unfortunately, if one was born into this system, the statistics show the odds are stacked against them on whether they navigate their way out. We have to do more to help folks navigate out of poverty and not just sustain them while in poverty.

As our witnesses will speak to, much of this cliff issue spans from the fact we have created a program to fill every void—big or small— in a person’s life: health care, food assistance, childcare, utility assistance, housing, education, and employment, to name a few.

And instead of creating mobility, we have inadvertently crafted a massive suite of programs that when stacked, create a trap instead of a ramp, or a cliff instead of a lift

This Subcommittee recently hosted two women who articulated the disincentives and penalties within SNAP, and how their families were impacted by the very policies Congress has enacted and various Administrations have regulated. 

Those individuals, and many before them who have sat before this panel, have made it clear there is work to be done. And maybe the things we consider here today can serve as fodder for our colleagues on other committees, so we can begin to unravel a generation’s worth of knots and pitfalls in our safety net programs.  SNAP is just one of many programs where we need to mitigate the cliff effect.

But I do hope this does not become a conversation solely focused on expanded eligibility and increased benefits. We have at least 50 years of evidence that show us it just might not be working as intended. There certainly are revenue-neutral approaches to be considered, including a focus on employment.

And as I said in the last hearing, while work waivers granted under the former and current Administrations were logical in response to COVID-19, they are now clearly keeping employable individuals idle and disengaged, which reaps significant negative impacts on families who want nothing more than to earn a living, and small businesses who are in dire need of workers.

As of May 31, we have more than nine million job openings, running the gamut from manufacturing to health services, retail to local government. This week we learned we now have a record high in job openings. It is high time to utilize the resources associated with SNAP Employment and Training, as well as state-based employment readiness services, to help get folks to a place where they are qualified and engaged in these industries. 

We have a witness with us today, Mr. Erik Randolph, who was before this very subcommittee six years ago. A lot has happened in the last six years, including a Farm Bill where Republicans at least tried to soften the blow to SNAP recipients—unfortunately those provisions were dropped in Conference—but what has not happened is a shared effort to come together as a Congress and work through this issue both in SNAP and across the more than 80 other programs in existence.

Madam Chair, I think we both see this as an opportunity. And I will say this again for the record—our decisions and approaches must reflect a multi-generational approach. We are long past trying and testing siloed programming.

I look forward to today’s testimony, and our future work on lessening the burden for families in need.

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