Early this month, the Trump Administration proposed rule changes through the USDA to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which would inhibit states from waiving work requirements for recipients in areas with high unemployment rates. This policy would end basic food assistance for the poorest 700,000 Americans. Another proposed rule change, eliminating states’ ability to grant eligibility based on enrollment in other government assistance programs, would slash benefits for any additional estimated 3 million Americans. This change would threaten food security for families with children throughout the nation, also reducing access to subsidized lunches for children in schools.
These proposed cuts to life-saving social programs will hurt residents of California’s 1st District, and Congressman LaMalfa — a long-time advocate of restricting SNAP benefits for poor Americans like the proposed USDA rules changes would implement — is nowhere to be found.
As of 2017, 106,000 residents of California’s 1st District were eligible for SNAP benefits; 31,000 of those individuals were children. CD-1 has the 6th highest percentage of “food insecure” individuals out of all CA Congressional Districts, with 14.8% of the population designated as “food insecure.” The rates of food insecurity for children in the North State is sadly much worse, with 74% living in a food-insecure household facing potential cuts.
On an almost annual basis, CD-1’s own Congressman Doug LaMalfa advocates for restricting SNAP benefits. He praised the inclusion of benefit reductions in the most recent Farm Bill, despite bipartisan opposition, before they were removed by our Republican-controlled Senate.
SNAP benefits can mean the difference between having a meal or going hungry. This program ensures that individuals and families throughout our communities have access to healthy food and nutrition education. Additionally, for each dollar provided by SNAP, $1.54 is generated in our local economies. So why, while representing one of the poorest counties in California, would the Congressman lobby for restricting access to SNAP benefits to our district’s most vulnerable?
According to Representative LaMalfa, he is trying to reduce fraud in the system. Rates of fraud in SNAP are under 4% (and lowering). Meanwhile, drastic cuts to SNAP like the ones being proposed by the Trump Administration will adversely affect the well-being of thousands of North State residents who are trying to keep food on their tables.
How can the congressman claim to be “one of us” and simultaneously work, year after year, to dismantle food security for his own district’s low income individuals, families, and seniors? How can we support a policymaker who votes to line his own pockets with corporate sponsorships and government benefits while the people he claims to represent are unheard, unseen, and unrepresented in Congress? How can we trust a leader who consistently votes against the best interests of his constituents?
The people of California’s 1st District deserve better. We deserve a representative who recognizes the worth and rights and dignity of every person living in our communities. We deserve a representative who sees us, trusts us, and advocates for our greatest good, regardless of our income level or status. It is time to elect a leader who prioritizes the needs of all of us, especially our most vulnerable. When you elect me to Congress in November 2020, I will be that leader.
*Audrey Denney is running against Congressman Doug LaMalfa to represent California’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2020.