Another Missouri bill threatens SNAP benefits for families

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Beth Low-Smith, KC Healthy Kids’ vice president of policy, submits the following testimony to the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children. SB 611 

We are deeply concerned that Senate Bill 611 will hurt children, families and communities.

SB 611 means more hungry kids struggling to learn.

How a child performs in school can open or limit opportunities later in life. We regularly hear from teachers who’ve seen hungry students struggle academically.

Child hunger is far too common in Missouri, where about 243,110 children experienced food insecurity in 2017 (Feeding America, Map the Meal Gap) placing them at risk of hunger. SNAP helps ensure that the academic success of these children is not limited by their family’s income.

Children who receive SNAP do better in school, and SNAP participation can lead to improvements in reading and mathematics skills among elementary children, especially young girls, and increase the chances of graduating from high school.

SB 611 would change that by disqualifying an entire household from receiving SNAP benefits on the basis of one family member’s status. As a result, child hunger and food insecurity will increase, undermining their chances at success in school and later in life.

SB 611 discourages family stability.

It undermines families by withholding benefits from entire households when one member fails to comply (lines 18-23), and restoring benefits to family members if the head of household changes (lines 23-25).

A direct assault on the most basic safety net in any person’s life, their family unit, will only make it more difficult for workers to get through difficult times and find long term success. It is a shockingly shortsighted and harmful provision which undermines families as well as the overarching goal of worker success.

Losing SNAP will hurt Missouri’s grocers and the economy.

It hurts grocers when customers get into line at food pantries rather than the checkout line. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that SNAP pumped $1.2 billion into Missouri’s economy in 2016.

A fiscal note is not currently available for this bill, but must include the estimated impact on state revenue of lost sales. The fiscal note for an identical proposal in 2019, SB 4, estimated that 65% of SNAP households would not comply with the proposed work requirements.

A loss in buying power on this scale would be devastating to grocers, an industry in which narrow profit margins of 1% to 1.3% are standard. Store closures seem likely to result-bad news for those workers and for the broader economy.

Senate Bill 611 will damage the ability of individuals, families and communities to weather difficulties, blocking their opportunities for long term success. We respectfully urge the committee to oppose SB 611.

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