By Congressman Elijah Cummings
I was hungry; You gave me something to eat
Here in Maryland, one of America’s wealthiest States, one in every eight households faces a constant struggle against hunger; more than one in every five households with children struggle to obtain enough food to provide regular, healthy meals for their family; and nearly one in ten Marylanders lives below the federal poverty line.
I recall these harsh and unacceptable statistics from the advocacy coalition, Maryland Hunger Solutions [http://www/mdhungersolutions.org], for a compelling reason. When so many of our neighbors are struggling just to survive, eliminating the pain of hunger in America should constantly remain in the forefront of our minds.
Contained within the anonymity of these statistics, these Maryland neighbors are human beings just like you and me. As a people striving to be more just, more human, and more humane, we must not turn away. We must not cast these neighbors aside.
We must think, hard and long, about how best to eliminate this widespread and unacceptable hardship, and then we must act.
An attempt to override the Congress
Our nation has responded to the imperative of feeding our most desperately hungry people with a series of “Farm Bills” that support agriculture while also providing food for the poorest of our poor citizens. Without these bipartisan compromises, many farms would fail, harming us all, and millions of Americans would be closer to starving.
The Maryland Department of Human Resources estimates that more than 650,000 Marylanders receive nutrition help each month through the federal-state partnership known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Some of these Maryland SNAP recipients have become eligible based upon their receipt of other federal benefits (like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), although the amount of financial help that they receive is still calculated based upon their income.
This “broad based categorical eligibility,” was retained in the bipartisan compromise Farm Bill that the Congress passed last year – a compromise that the Trump Administration is now attempting to override.
The Administration’s Department of Agriculture has proposed a regulation that would severely restrict the right of states like Maryland to utilize “broad based categorical eligibility” and, thereby, to expand eligibility for SNAP from 135 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
I was hungry. You gave me nothing to eat.
For millions of Americans, including tens of thousands here in Maryland, if the Trump Administration’s proposal to limit eligibility for SNAP succeeds, the consequences will be catastrophic.
An estimated 3 million Americans (perhaps 50,000 here in Maryland) would lose the nutrition assistance that they need in their struggles to survive; and hundreds of thousands of American children would become ineligible for free school meals.
The Trump Administration’s Department of Agriculture has admitted that its proposed restriction of SNAP eligibility will make food insecurity worse and make it harder for millions of Americans to get by.
Republicans often make speeches about helping hungry Americans escape the cycle of poverty, but this SNAP proposal disproportionately harms the very Americans who are working, struggling to make ends meet, and might, with some extra help, actually be able to succeed.
Republicans talk about states’ rights when it suits them, but not when it comes to the flexibility of states to meet the needs of their food-insecure populations. To those who will suffer, this must seem a bitter irony indeed.
As our rapidly transforming economy continues to leave working families and our most vulnerable behind, federal programs like SNAP are desperately needed.
We also must remind the Trump Administration that, under our Constitution, the Congress, and not the President, determines how federal dollars are to be spent.
As House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts has declared,
“Congress rejected this very proposal in the 2018 Farm Bill, and it is unlawful for the administration to attempt to override the law without congressional authorization.”
This Administration has made its disregard for the welfare of our people – and our law – quite clear. Now, we must fight for what is right.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.
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