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Bill could put food-insecure veterans at risk

By WYATT STAYNER | The Columbian | Published: November 18, 2018

VANCOUVER, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — The next version of the farm bill could expand cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which might have an adverse affect on military veterans.

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate had previously introduced versions of the farm bill, and are currently working to create a compromise bill. The current farm bill expired in September, and its funding will run out by December.

The original House bill contained cuts, mostly stemming from new eligibility and work requirements, which could impact veterans, said Claire Lane, the director for the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition. Lane explained the farm bill that originated in the Senate doesn’t include those cuts, and would add funding to SNAP’s education and job training program, which could help people land sustainable employment.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 51,000 Washington veterans use SNAP to help feed themselves or their families. Carolyn Palmer, the director of St. Vincent de Paul Vancouver, said they have about a dozen veterans visit their food bank on Stapleton Road each week.

When SNAP funding gets cut, that places more responsibility on local charitable organizations to provide relief, even though those organizations don’t have the resources or funding that the federal government has, Lane said. That’s a fact that Palmer can speak to.

“I don’t want to see the SNAP program ending for our veterans,” Palmer said. “If funding gets reduced they are relying on food pantries and agencies to supplement their food.”

Part of the reason why veterans are at risk with this farm bill is because it makes significant changes in eligibility and alters the amount of hours someone has to work to qualify for aid. Those changes could harm seasonal workers and younger veterans, Lane said. If someone doesn’t meet the hourly requirements one month, they could be kicked off SNAP for a whole year, Lane said.

While the unemployment rate for veterans is near an all-time low, the radio program “Marketplace” reports the “labor force participation for U.S. veterans is 49.7 percent, which means that more than 10 million veterans are currently not working or actively looking for work.”

“It’s those kinds of things around employment that are particularly a challenge for veterans, knowing that young, returning vets have a hard time finding work,” Lane explained.

Syliva VanSelow, the operations manager at St. Vincent de Paul Vancouver, said many veterans who visit the food bank don’t like to advertise their time in the military. VanSelow said “They’re here to get the help and slip on out. A lot of them don’t like being here, but where else are they going to go?”

“They’re not making it with the income that they are getting, because it’s not a lot,” VanSelow said. “By the time they pay their bills, by the time they pay their gasoline and insurance, where’s the money for food? It’s tough for them out there.”

©2018 The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)
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