March 12, 2002
On behalf of the 900 synagogues of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, encompassing over 1.5 million people across North America, I write to urge you to support a strong nutrition title in the final Farm Bill. We are pleased that both the House and Senate Farm Bills now in conference make positive and needed changes to strengthen the Food Stamp Program. In the current economy, more and more families will face hunger or be confronted with the necessity of choosing between food and other essentials. Now is the time to significantly expand eligibility and funding for food stamps.
We ask you to:
- Include the immigrant provisions contained in the Senate bill except for the provision that requires states to make complicated determinations about an individual's immigration status, a provision which is unworkable;
- Make benefit improvements by 1) scaling the standard deduction to family size and indexing it to inflation, 2) raising and phasing out the shelter deduction cap, 3) allowing states to provide at least six months of transitional benefits to people leaving cash assistance, and 4) relaxing the time limit on food stamp benefits for jobless, childless adults willing to work;
- Support provisions which simplify and streamline the Food Stamp Program rules which will allow less complicated application forms and more flexibility regarding the frequency of office visits and income reporting requirements; and
- Reform the Quality Control system, which presently inhibits states in serving individuals who often desperately need assistance.
In the recent passage of the economic stimulus package and 13-week extension of unemployment benefits, both the House and the Senate recognized the need to provide assistance to working families hit hard by the economic recession. In that same spirit, we ask that you include these crucial improvements in the final Farm Bill. It is important that the Food Stamp Program be strengthened so it can remain our nation's first and most effective line of defense against hunger.
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism