As many as 100,000 people in Passaic County – a significant number of them in Paterson — will be negatively impacted by the big cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps program proposed by president Donald Trump’s administration, according to Tony DeSimone, director of the Passaic County Board of Social Services.
“You can’t be in your right mind to propose these cuts knowing how many people will be hurt,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, flanked by four county freeholders, at the Passaic County Social Services building on Tuesday afternoon.
The average food stamps recipient in Passaic County gets $116 in benefits, said DeSimone. “How many people believe they can feed themselves for $116 a month? We’re talking about pennies.”
Half of those impacted people are children, said DeSimone. A fourth of the families receiving food stamps have jobs and work, but those jobs do not pay enough to get them off of the SNAP program, he said.
“We all know SNAP works,” said DeSimone. “I implore you, Mr. President, find something else. We can afford to feed our children in this country.”
Pascrell said Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney has been justifying the proposed cuts to a large number of social service programs by asserting they don’t work. His claim has been largely refuted as false, misleading, or exaggerated in news reports.
“Is he from Mars? Mulvaney is a little foggy on how we define results,” said Pascrell. He said results in these programs are defined by the number of people being helped.
The proposed cuts also hit the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program which provides help to 3,300 families in Passaic County. The president’s proposed budget also slashes the Meals on Wheels program.
1,400 seniors in Passaic County rely on the county’s Meals on Wheels program every day, said Passaic County freeholder Assad Akhter. He said the county’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which processed 15,700 applications, will also be negatively impacted.
“These people cannot make up the difference,” said Akhter.
All of these social programs are being cut to give the country’s richest tax breaks, said the congressman.
“We’re putting people’s lives in jeopardy so the few can get richer. We’re getting tax cuts for the rich and a budget that doesn’t balance,” said Pascrell. “We’re beginning to think like a third-class country and we’re the greatest country in the world.”
“What the Trump administration put out is not a budget. It’s a radical attempt to shift government resources in our society from those who need it the most to those who need it the least,” said Akhter.
Pascrell vowed to fight against the cuts. He addressed a dozen or so employees of the Passaic County Board of Social Services. He urged them to write letters and make phone calls to their federal representatives. If these programs are eliminated or severely reduced many of these employees will find themselves on the unemployment lines, he said.
The congressman said working people who, despite having jobs, are having tough time making ends meet, are the ones hit hard by the proposed cuts.
“This has nothing to do with Democrat and Republican. When you’re hungry there’s no Democrat, Republican. When you’re cold there’s no partisan politics,” said Pascrell, a Democrat, who is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. “I hope the other side sees the light.”