Poverty advocates say the newly passed $26 billion jobs bill will hurt New York City's nearly 2 million food stamp recipients because it will be paid for, in part, by reducing food stamp benefits for the poor.
The bill sends states $10 billion in school aid and $16 billion in increased Medicaid payments. Democrats say the money will prevent 300,000 teachers, police and other public workers, nationwide, from losing their jobs. The legislation allocates $607.6 million to New York to support 8,200 education jobs. President Obama signed the bill into law yesterday, hours after the House passed it 247-161.
The aid will be paid for mostly by closing a tax loophole used by multinational corporations and cutting food stamp benefits, starting in 2014. Last year, Congress increased food stamp benefits in its economic recovery bill, with a plan to phase out the increases over time. Yesterday's measure will accelerate the phasing out of the food stamp increases, saving almost $12 billion.
"This has nothing to do with public policy," said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. "This has everything to do with the politics of low income people being the easiest to dump on because they have the least political power and because they don't have campaign contributions to give."
Berg said households receiving food stamps in New York City currently get, on average, $290 a month. With the passage of this bill, in four years, that amount will drop to $230 a month, which Berg says, isn't enough to buy groceries for a family through week three.
"Some of them may go hungry. Some of them may supplement their diet by being forced to take the humiliating step by going to pantries and kitchens."
Democrats say they plan to look for other ways to pay for the law before the food stamp cuts go into effect in 2014, but that for now, quick action was necessary to save jobs.
Republicans called the bill a giveaway to teachers unions and an example of wasteful Washington spending.