Two of Pennsylvania’s congressional representatives broke ranks with the Republican caucus Thursday over food stamp funding.
Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan voted against cutting $40 billion over 10 years to the program now called known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Other House members largely voted for or against the bill along party lines.
Meehan of Delaware County said he shared concerns by members of his party that a safety-net program was becoming a widely used “entitlement program.”
But, “my instinct was that this was time where we should continue to try to be cognizant of the struggles that people are having,” he said Friday.
Meehan suggested he would have voted for another version of the bill with smaller funding reductions.
“I’m hopeful for a better economy, but I thought that at this time it was a bridge a little bit too far for me to go,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said that 89 percent of the SNAP benefits in his Bucks County district go to seniors and children.
“While I support work requirements for the able-bodied, the cuts proposed were too deep to earn my vote,” he said. “Food assistance programs in my suburban district are about supporting seniors and children who may otherwise have nowhere else to turn.”
The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger estimates that several hundred thousand Pennsylvanians could lose access to food assistance under the House plan, which would set requirements for lower income and more rigid requirements for recipients to participate in job training or a work search.
“At least 124,000 Pennsylvanians would be cut due to the ‘changes in work requirements’ that the bill calls for and a few hundred thousand more would be affected by other changes in that bill,” predicted Ronna Bolante of the coalition.
About 1.8 million people in the commonwealth qualify for the federal assistance. Of those, about 500,000 live in Philadelphia County.
The Senate has already passed a farm bill that reduced SNAP funding by $4 million over 10 years. The two bills will be reconciled in committee. Limited cuts to the food stamp program are already set to go into effect in November.