The Arc of Indiana is Indiana’s leading organization advocating for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. We are closely watching the deliberations on the Farm Bill, as the House proposal would make harmful changes to a program that helps ensure people with disabilities can put food on the table.
Having a disability or dealing with a serious illness can make earning enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table especially difficult. Research has shown that earnings typically fall by more than 75 percent within 10 years of the onset of a chronic or severe disability, accompanied by a steep drop in spending on basic necessities, like food. Over one-quarter of participants in food assistance programs nationwide have a disability that impacts their daily life or limits their ability to work, according to the 2015 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).
For many confronting these struggles in Indiana and nationwide, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is part of the answer. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, provides 119,000 Hoosiers with disabilities assistance to purchase food, helping them maintain a healthy diet.
Unfortunately, this crucial program for people living with disabilities is now under threat. The House Farm Bill includes harmful proposals that could take away food assistance from people with disabilities. People with physical and mental health conditions could lose food assistance because they are unable to meet expanded work requirements or because they struggle to provide the written documentation to prove they are exempt from the requirements. These fears are not unfounded. There is a long history of people falling through the cracks, unable to get exemptions from work requirements even if they qualify for them—the House’s woefully underfunded proposal will only exacerbate this problem. That means thousands of people with disabilities could be cut from SNAP for various reasons not pertaining to their desire to work, leaving them with neither earnings nor food assistance.
This bill makes several other changes that create more barriers to SNAP for people with disabilities, such as increasing paperwork and reversing state efforts to improve the program and make it easier to navigate. For example, the bill eliminates a simplification that allows participants who receive energy assistance to claim a standard deduction for utility costs. Under this change, SNAP participants would be required to produce paperwork verifying their utility costs and could face a cut in their food benefits if they struggle to do so.
Our Indiana federal delegation and leaders in Washington, D.C., must remember the Americans living with disabilities when considering this year’s Farm Bill. We urge our leaders to not break the long history of a bipartisan commitment to ensure struggling families have enough to eat with needless and ill-conceived changes. Strengthening SNAP, not cutting it, is the right way forward.
Cutting off SNAP – including through new and harsher work and reporting requirements – would only make it harder for people with disabilities and their families to access the food they need to work and to survive. If policymakers are serious about employment, Congress should look towards making major new investments in job training and supports and services for jobseekers with disabilities and their families.
SNAP works for Hoosiers with disabilities. It helps them afford food and avoid poverty, and it also makes life more manageable for their loved ones and caregivers. We must do all we can to protect this crucial program and ensure it continues to serve the people it helps.
The Arc of Indiana