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Proposed Cuts to SNAP Benefits Could Hit Rural Virginia Especially Hard

Congress is considering a massive change to the food stamp program. And, the change would hit rural parts of Virginia the hardest.

One in five households in small-town Virginia is supported by food stamps. That’s according to a recent report from the Commonwealth Institute. That means congressional efforts to cut $20 billion from the program would disproportionately hurt rural Virginia.

Victor Chen at Virginia Commonwealth University says support for food stamps has traditionally been bipartisan.

“I think what has changed in recent years is you have extreme anti-government activists in Congress who want to get rid of any sort of safety net program. So they are trying to paint food stamps as going to people who don’t deserve it.”

Salaam Bhatti is director of Virginia Hunger Solutions.

“If you don’t adhere to the 20 hours a week rule then you won’t be receiving SNAP for 12 months. That’s a terrible penalty in times when you’re not sure, if you’re working in retail, where you’ll get 25 hours one week or 15 hours the next week.”

The Farm Bill, which includes the cuts to the food stamp program, has already passed the House Agriculture Committee, and it’s expected to be up for a vote in full House in the next few weeks.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.