Skip to Content

Press Releases

Chair Jahana Hayes Opening Statement at Hearing on Examining the SNAP Benefit Cliff

WASHINGTON House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Chair Jahana Hayes delivered the following statement at today's hearing titled “Examining the SNAP Benefit Cliff.”

[As prepared for delivery]

Good afternoon and welcome to the second hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations.

Thank you to all the Members in attendance today and special thanks to our witnesses for sharing their time and expertise.

This hearing, titled “Examining the SNAP Benefit Cliff,” is the result of a discussion between myself and Ranking Member Bacon at the beginning of this Congress about our shared concern that low-income workers may abruptly lose the very support that helps propel them toward financial stability.

This conversation comes at a critical time. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, families across the country are still struggling to put food on the table. They are still struggling to find high-wage jobs. And they are staring down the barrel of the end of emergency increases that sustained them through this extremely trying time.

During times of crisis and after, SNAP – and every piece of our federal safety net – should adjust to increased income and savings to allow workers to ease off benefits at the point when they are truly able to stand on their own. And they should allow for flexibility to ensure benefits do not run out at a time that throws workers and their families back into financial turmoil or food insecurity.

Thankfully, we do have built-in flexibilities in SNAP that allow states to substantially reduce the benefit cliff and its harmful effects.

Broad based categorical eligibility is a critical tool that allows recipients to save for the future, incentivizes work by allowing them to earn more without losing access to benefits, and substantially reduces administrative burden for states and participants.

However, not all states utilize broad based categorical eligibility, and there are always more improvements to be made.

We must ensure that no one in this country has to make the heart-wrenching choice between taking a promotion and putting food on the table for their family.

During our last hearing, the impact of the benefit cliff was profoundly demonstrated by our witnesses who were participating in SNAP, Rachel Wilson and Odessa Davis. 

Odessa Davis explained the financial constraints faced by her and her son after she lost access to SNAP benefits due to a moderate rise in income. Ms. Wilson spoke about the need to calculate every dollar earned to be sure she does not exceed the exact maximum and lose hundreds of dollars of increased emergency benefits that help feed her family as she struggles to return to full employment following the pandemic.

Ms. Wilson’s story particularly highlights a concerning reality families will be facing in the coming weeks. Millions of families who benefitted from SNAP benefit increases will see them abruptly go away – no matter if their economic situation has improved or not. On top of the regular benefit cliff, SNAP recipients will have to adjust to an additional “COVID-cliff” as they attempt to recover from the last year.

I am so pleased that Mr. Bacon has expressed an interest in addressing this problem, and hope to work together to craft a solution for our constituents.

To continue this discussion, we have today’s panel of witnesses.

We are fortunate to have four important points of view, including that of an economist, Dr. Hardy, two researchers, Dr. Gourrier and Mr. Randolph, and a SNAP administrator, Assistant Commissioner Brown,  to help us understand the impact our decisions have on Americans receiving SNAP as they navigate the web of social service programs that provide support in times of need.

As my colleague Mr. McGovern has noted, this combination of supports involves more than just SNAP, which is within our jurisdiction.  The cost of housing and childcare figure prominently in the long-term security of low-income families too. Ensuring all Americans are able to attain sustainable financial stability requires an all of government approach. At the very least, it requires that we work diligently to strengthen the safety net programs already available to our constituents.

I look forward to hearing more from our witnesses about the interplay between these vital supports and the impact on our shared goal to create effective and efficient federal policy that truly supports Americans in need.

Back to top