MAZON Concerned that Debt Ceiling Deal Sets a Dangerous Precedent

May 31, 2023

This weekend, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy released an agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling for two years, which includes several changes to anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. For the first time, SNAP’s so-called work requirements will be imposed on adults aged 50-54, with new exemptions for three groups: veterans, unhoused people, and former foster youth.

“By increasing arbitrary and harmful restrictions on people seeking federal assistance, this debt ceiling deal will put more Americans at risk of hunger — plain and simple” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “MAZON and our partners in the anti-hunger community have always opposed expanding the number of people who are subject to SNAP’s already harsh time limits. It is reprehensible that some in Congress insisted on using hungry Americans as a bargaining chip in negotiating this agreement.

“It’s particularly troubling that this debt ceiling agreement sets a dangerous precedent for abandoning the foundational principle that safety net programs are intended to help people — not to motivate or mandate work.

“Let’s be clear: SNAP is not a work program. It never was, and it never should be. It is intended to be a safety net for those who fall on hard times and need help. We know from both recent and historical experience that programs like SNAP ensure that people can feed themselves and their families with dignity, rather than forcing them to seek emergency assistance from an overwhelmed charitable sector. Now, more than ever, it is critical that all people — regardless of circumstance — can access federal assistance when they need it.”

Last week, MAZON led a group of 18 national Jewish organizations urging Congress and the Administration to avoid cutting critical assistance from SNAP and other anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. The national organization’s 2023 Farm Bill priorities include strengthening SNAP and other federal nutrition programs, removing barriers to SNAP for specific populations like military families and single mothers, empowering tribal food sovereignty and food security in Indian Country, and improving equity for the people of Puerto Rico.