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Federal Budget Proposal Would Hit Oregon Food Stamp Program Particularly Hard, Study Says

News Release
December 7, 2005 Download PDF

An analysis released today by the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP) finds that budget cuts being considered by Congress would hit Oregon’s food stamp program disproportionately hard. Oregonians would suffer at least 14 percent of the food stamp cuts, even though Oregonians make up less than two percent of the food stamp caseload nationwide.

“The House-passed budget bill makes low-income Oregonians bear a disproportionate share of the pain,” said Michael Leachman, policy analyst at the OCPP.

Congress will be deciding soon whether to eliminate food stamp benefits for about 255,000 low-income Americans. The cuts are contained in the U.S. House of Representative’s budget “reconciliation” bill. In contrast, the U.S. Senate budget reconciliation bill would protect the Food Stamp program entirely from cuts. The outcome will be determined in a conference committee involving members from both chambers. The conference agreement, expected this month and maybe as early as next week, will be sent to both chambers for approval.

“Oregon’s success in reducing hunger would be threatened if these cuts go through,” said Leachman. Oregon has expanded food stamps over the last five years to reduce the state’s hunger rate. Between 1999-01 and 2002-04, Oregon was the only state in the country to see its hunger rate fall. According to USDA estimates, Oregon’s hunger rate fell from 5.8 percent to 3.8 percent of households.

The House-passed bill would sharply scale back a provision in the food stamp rules called “categorical eligibility.” This is the key provision Oregon used five years ago to expand its food stamp program to reach more low-income working families. The House bill would also increase from five to seven the number of years legal immigrant families must reside in the United States before becoming eligible for food stamps.

“Both of the provisions in the House measure would hit Oregon harder than most states,” said Leachman.

According to OCPP’s analysis, at least 35,000 low-income Oregonians would lose food stamp benefits under the House-passed bill. This does not include the unknown number of Oregonians who would lose food stamps because they own a reliable car or other modest assets.

“The damage to Oregon from food stamp cuts would be particularly harsh because of a domino effect that would occur if thousands of low-income families lose food stamps,” said Leachman.

Oregon has reduced administrative costs and streamlined certain low-income assistance programs by linking access to these programs to food stamp eligibility. For example, households getting food stamps are eligible to receive free school lunches, a monthly credit on their phone bill and reduced phone installation charges, coupons for seniors to eat locally grown produce, and student loan deferments.

If the House budget proposal prevails, Leachman noted, the cuts to the food stamp program will also reduce these additional, important assistance programs to low-income Oregon families.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy uses research and analysis to advance policies and practices that improve the economic and social opportunities of all Oregonians.

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