Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Comstock Fails SNAP Test

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Comstock Fails SNAP Test

U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-10) has taken a hard core right wing stance in supporting President Trump and the House's Farm Bill version that would gut the vital SNAP nutrition program.

In contrast, state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33), the Democratic nominee in the 10th Congressional District, has endorsed the moderate, bipartisan Senate version that preserves the SNAP program and passed with overwhelming support by most US senators of both parties, 86-11. The House version barely passed by 2 votes, 213-211.

We have asked several times if Rep. Comstock would move to the Senate version to avoid the House bill that would cut benefits and inevitably result in kicking deserving Virginians off of this key nutrition program. All we have received is a generalized comment that she supports a compromise that ends the impasse, and this does nothing to answer the question about SNAP.

The SNAP nutrition program is vital for all demographic groups, including the large Latino community which makes up approximately 13 percent of the population in the 10th District.

We received feedback on key safety net issues like SNAP at our nonpartisan forum for 10th District candidates in McLean in late May, and the Comstock campaign was the only one of the then eight campaigns from both parties that was not represented by either the candidate or a senior surrogate.

As many nonprofits and anti-hunger and poverty advocates in northern Virginia know, even in our relatively prosperous area there are substantial numbers of people who are immigrants, economically under stress, homeless, or otherwise in need of nutrition assistance.

The Farm Bill is essential for the SNAP nutrition program that is the key bulwark against hunger and malnutrition, as well as agriculture provisions that are important for farmers in the western part of the 10th District. SNAP promotes food security, enhances health, improves child development and learning, lifts households above the poverty line, helps people facing temporary setbacks, and stimulates local economic activity.

We have not gotten any meaningful feedback from either the Comstock Congressional or campaign offices despite repeated efforts, and Virginians need to know that Comstock not only voted for the House version earlier in the year that would harm SNAP, but published a statement praising the House's reactionary bill.

Comstock and Congress as a whole can't evade responsibility for taking a stand on this crucial issue by kicking the can down the road and saying, “Trust us, we'll come up with a resolution after the election.” The SNAP vote reportedly will now take place some time after mid-November or later.

We have commended many thoughtful Republicans in the US Senate who voted for the constructive Senate version.

Billing the House version as pushing allegedly "lazy" people to find work is demagoguery, because the great majority of SNAP recipients are either people who already have low-wage jobs, seniors, people with disabilities, or unemployed people who are doing their best to find work, and SNAP already has programs to help people to find work.

SNAP benefits are very small at approximately $1.43 per person per meal, so there is no incentive for people to avoid work and try to "live off" SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

This program has a waste and abuse level of a little over 1 percent, which is very good for such a huge program. There are always a few bad actors in any program involving about 39 million recipients and about 766,000 people in Virginia, and government officials are doing their best to eliminate waste and abuse. The program is sound.

Lee Powell, Economic Equality Caucus Virginia Committee

J. Walter Tejada, Virginia Latino Leaders Council