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California Association of Food Banks Condemns House Debt Ceiling Bill — An Attack on Food Access

April 27, 2023

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a debt ceiling bill (Speaker McCarthy) which aims to impose strict limitations on federal spending and will have disastrous consequences for millions of low-income Californians. The bill includes a host of harmful policies that aim to cut vital programs proven to support families struggling to meet their basic needs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program / SNAP (CalFresh), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families / TANF (CalWORKS), and Medicaid (Medi-Cal). These are among a long list of devastating cuts to cap spending and weaken critically needed safety-net programs proven as some of our most powerful and cost-effective tools to prevent poverty-related hunger.

CalFresh currently helps 5 million Californians struggling to put food on the table by providing modest monthly benefits to purchase food at grocery stores and farmers markets. In 2022, CalFresh delivered $900 million in economic activity in California; every $1 in SNAP benefits generates as much as $1.80 in economic activity during an economic downturn. It supports local businesses and creates jobs. By cutting funding for SNAP, the debt ceiling bill will not only harm older adults and families by taking food away, but also undermine the overall health of our economy — an especially harmful outcome on top of the mounting hunger cliff.

Some of the most damaging elements of the bill include provisions to:

  • Worsen the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) time-limit on SNAP by expanding the age group that would be subject to these harsh and racist rules from 49 to 55
  • Prevent states from being able to bank individual ABAWD exemptions which are a backstop to ensuring critical populations such as people who are unhoused stay connected to vital food aid provided by SNAP / CalFresh
  • Take healthcare from millions of people by denying them Medicaid coverage 
  • Force more parents accessing TANF into ill-suited programs and push more families deeper into poverty because they are unable to document that they meet narrow requirements. Without cash benefits to meet their basic needs, more families will likely end up homeless or have their children removed and placed in the child welfare system. 
  • Cap annual spending growth at 1% for key domestic federal programs, including programs such as housing, veterans’ healthcare, child care and preschool, public health, Pell Grants and college work-study, K-12 education, and environmental protection, among many others.

Federal budget negotiations should not hold public assistance programs like SNAP/CalFresh hostage. Ensuring people have access to food, healthcare and basic needs are essential investments that strengthen our economy, and it is simply the right thing to do. Access to food is a basic human right.

Budgets are statements of values. We call on the Senate and President to reject this legislation and build on the historic success in preventing hunger and reducing poverty — gains achieved just two years ago — by prioritizing investments in basic needs like food and healthcare. 

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