The following is a copy of a letter to our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed from John Hunter of Yates County. Shorter versions of this letter have been sent to various district newspapers. The (Dundee) Observer published the shorter letter on Wednesday, October 2. Mr. Hunter gave the New NY 23rd permission to post it on our site.
September 23, 2013
Dear Congressman Reed,
A visit to your congressional website (www.reed.house.gov) on September 22, 2013 revealed your boast that your affirmative vote to cut nearly 40 billion dollars from SNAP (formerly food stamps) as part of a budgetary continuing resolution includes ”needed reforms to food assistance programs.” This affirmative vote indicates your complete disregard for the welfare of many residents in your congressional district.
Poor residents of the New York 23rd face food insecurity issues. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, 17% of NY 23rd district residents lived below the poverty level (112,369). Of that number 23% of children (33,277) lived below the poverty level as well.
Of the 112,369 residents of the NY 23rd that live below poverty level guidelines, forty percent of blacks, or 4,914 individuals, 26% of women or 63,359, 26% of Asians or 3,971, 35% of Latinos or 7,633, and 25% of Native Americans or 897 people face daily food insecurity issues.
Your affirmative vote on SNAP reductions means that for next year, nearly 4 million low-income people nationally will lose this assistance. Additionally, about 3 million poor people nationally will lose this assistance each year for the next decade. Currently some 47 million Americans rely on SNAP benefits. If these cuts continue as the House has enacted, nearly 30 million people will lose these benefits over the next 10 years. Some of the people losing this assistance will be residents of your district.
As I am sure you are aware, SNAP fraud comprises just 4% of recipients, and healthy unemployed adults may only collect SNAP benefits for 3 months unless they are involved in job training programs. Among SNAP recipients 76% of households receiving benefits include single women with children, senior citizens and disabled individuals. Your vote places these individuals in increased jeopardy of not having enough food to eat.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly three-quarters of all SNAP recipients (72%) are working families that do not make enough money to buy adequate amounts of food. Furthermore, the SNAP program cuts will limit the amount of money recipients receive. Currently, SNAP recipients receive a maximum amount of $4.50 per individual per day or $1.50 per meal. I encourage you to try to live on $4.50 a day for food for just one week. At this support level, no SNAP recipient buys steak and lobster. Reducing the daily stipend further will exacerbate the problem.
Since the Republican controlled House of Representatives stonewalls administration attempts to improve the economy, these numbers will not diminish in the near future. Your callous disregard for basic human needs calls into question your moral values. Christian leaders including evangelical, Catholic, Protestant, African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American churches view these cuts as a moral outrage. As a professed Christian, do you ever wonder why leaders of your faith find fault with your actions? After all, Jesus told us to take care of the poor. Jesus did not limit this injunction to the deserving poor; he told us to take care of all poor people.
Instead of holding phony town meetings around your district that allow you to tell half-truths and ignore uncomfortable questions, visit the real people in your district. Go to food banks and homeless shelters. Talk to priests and ministers, rabbis and Muslim leaders who see the effects of chronic food insufficiency on a daily basis. Talk to the people who face food sufficiency challenges. You will find that these people are not free-loaders who take advantage of the system.
If you hold the opinion that religious and social agencies should answer these food needs alone, given the current state of the economy, it is not possible for these agencies to meet the nutrition needs of one-sixth of America’s population. This is a governmental responsibility. In the Preamble to The Constitution of the United States, among several duties our government has to assume is to “promote the general welfare.” Thus, according to the Constitution, feeding one-sixth of our population is primarily a government duty.
On a moral level and a political level I urge you to rethink your position on SNAP reductions. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
John M. Hunter