Congress May Love Food Stamp Cuts, but Even Republican Governors Hate Them

Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett is increasing heating subsidies to maintain food stamp funding.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. (Photo: Craig Houtz/Reuters)

Mar 7, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

In 2012, Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Corbett introduced an asset test for residents applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The controversial measure blocked families with more than $5,500 in assets—$9,000 for households with at least one member over 60—from signing up for the federal food stamp program, regardless of their income. It was estimated that more than 4,000 predominately elderly households would be impacted.

Just two years later, following last November’s cut to benefits and the passage of the new farm bill, which seeks to reduce food stamps by $8 billion over the next decade, Gov. Corbett has once again made an unexpected SNAP announcement: He’s joining fellow Northeastern Govs. Andrew Cuomo and Dannel Malloy in heading off the drop in funding their state were set to be disproportionately hit with.

Like his Democrat counterparts in New York and Connecticut, Corbett is able to maintain the SNAP benefits for some 400,000 households, which were otherwise set to lose between $60 and $65 per person every month, by boosting the heating subsidies that help qualify certain families for more food stamps. The glaring difference, however, is that Corbett is a Republican.

In “heat and eat” states such as Pennsylvania, it used to be that just $1 in federal heating oil subsidies could qualify a family for additional benefits. The majority of the “savings” Congress baked into the new farm bill resulted from raising that minimum payment to $20. The new plan will allocate $8 million in federal money granted to Pennsylvania for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to bump those payments up to $20.

All in all, 17 states across the country have similar programs. Which means that if 14 other governors follow Cuomo, Malloy, and Corbett, who together are avoiding $824 million of lost benefits this years, the SNAP cuts Congress passed last month could essentially be nullified—and with federal money at that.