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Clash in Congress Over Food Stamp Cuts
The fight continues. In one corner, U.S. House Republicans trying to keep food stamps out of the farm bill and pushing to take $4 billion a year out of the program. In the other corner, the Democratic-run Senate hoping to keep the program as one and soften the blow with a $400 million cut.
Either proposal would mean fewer people on the food stamp roll. Some say that would be good because they claim the program has become grossly overfunded. But others say cutting food stamps is a bad idea, one that could even lead to more crime.
"Each time I pay my bills and stuff with my social security check I don't have enough to buy groceries," Springfield resident David Arnold said. That is unless he uses his Link card, the state-issued piece of plastic that brings food to families in need.
And there is a lot of need. The Central Illinois Foodbank hands out nine million pounds of food a year. Officials say if benefits like food stamps are cut the crates could just get heavier.
"We are very efficient, we do put out a lot of food. But if the need continues to increase we're going to have to increase our output as well. So that means, you know, [more] help from the community and help from our partners we already work with. It just puts a further strain on resources," Central Illinois Foodbank Spokesperson Kaleigh Friend said.
But there is strain in Congress too as both chambers squabble over how to pay for food stamps. The money needed to fund the program has doubled since 2008 to $78 billion last year. A fact Springfield resident Ashley Minton attributes to people taking advantage.
"It's like when people have two people working and still have Link, you should be able to afford it. Being a single mom and working, I can't afford bills plus food for every thing else. So yeah, someone like me, yeah I need Link," Minton said.
But what if you can't work? Like Arnold, who says social security disability benefits and his Link card saved him from a life of crime.
"I've been homeless before and I only got $30 one year and that's what I did and I got caught for it," Arnold said.
But before Congress can think about that type of repercussion they have to agree on whether food stamps should be part of the Farm Bill and then agree on how much can be shaved from the program. A program one in seven Americans relies on.
"I think I'd be broke by the time I'd be providing for my kids and family," Springfield resident Alicia Rivers said.
There is also a lot of talk in Congress about making the requirements for food stamps more stringent with things like drug testing and barring convicted felons from benefits. These are all issues Congress will continue to discuss throughout the month.
The current law expires in September so Congress must agree on what to do by then. If they do not agree they could extend the law as is but that would be at the expense of several planned updates to the rest of the Farm Bill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.