WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Lawmakers are rethinking the future of SNAP food assistance after the program saw a surge in participants during the pandemic.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., said that with some pandemic-era rules expiring, lawmakers must now focus on expanding access to those in need.
“It has lifted over 2 million people above the poverty line,” he said.
Stacy Dean, who oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at the Department of Agriculture, said changes that allow families to shop with SNAP online or at farmers’ markets have been helpful.
“We learned about a different way of doing things,” Dean said.
Republicans argue that some new changes, such as a recent 21% increase in monthly payments, are too expensive for taxpayers.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, say they are concerned the program is being abused in some states where unemployed and able-bodied adults without children can still receive aid.
“The pandemic cannot be used as an excuse,” Grassley said.
“We have to maintain the integrity of the program,” Ernst said.
Dean said the flex ends in May. He has asked lawmakers not to push the cuts.
“Because we know how many families are really living on the edge,” Dean said.
Right now, Republicans are looking for ways to reduce the nation’s spending. But Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Miss., said SNAP shouldn’t be on the chopping block.
“This is a program that really helps workers,” he said.