Republican push to cut food aid would hurt Florida Hispanics

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By Giselle Balido

January 2, 2024

A Miami hairdresser says she’s at a crossroads over the Republican Party’s desire to cut SNAP food aid funding. “I want to vote for my party, but I also don’t want to vote against my family’s interests,” she said. “I can’t afford to.”

For the first time since she arrived in the US from her native Cuba, Iliana, a hairdresser from Miami, admits that sometimes she stays up nights worrying about being able to feed her family. 

Amid news of possible cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, the single mother of a teenager and sole provider for her mentally disabled adult brother fears that she will need to get another job just to make ends meet.

“They have already cut benefits for my brother, who suffers from Down’s Syndrome, and now they are talking about cutting food stamps? I don’t know what we’ll do,” the 57-year-old told Floricua. 

Iliana is not alone in worrying about House Republicans’ drastic proposals to restrict who is eligible for the program, a move that according to a POLITICO analysis of the most recent census data would disproportionately affect Hispanic families across the state. 

RELATED: GOP Plans Could Include Deep Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act

In fact, according to recent data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2022, Hispanic households reported experiencing food insecurity more than double the rate of white households. 

Now, a number of House Republicans are calling for additional work requirements for recipients of SNAP. One proposal would extend work stipulations for mothers of children over the age of seven years old. Some Republican hardliners also want to cut SNAP spending back to pre-pandemic levels.

This would result in deep cuts to the number of people receiving food benefits, with the effects seriously affecting districts that are majority-Hispanic. Three of these districts are in the Miami area, including one south Miami district where one in five households receives SNAP benefits.

This is the district where Iliana lives. While she says she has always voted Republican, Iliana admits she now feels at a crossroads. 

“I want to vote for my party, but I also don’t want to vote against my family’s interests,” she says. “I can’t afford to.”

RELATED: Florida rejects $320 million in federal funds to address emissions that drive climate change

Some Republicans, however, have tried to be vague about the effort to cut federal spending, not wanting to risk recent gains made with Hispanic voters.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez, for example, who has lobbied to support adding new work requirements for some SNAP beneficiaries, and who insists that “a lot of programs” need to be cut or slashed, has skirted the issue of what these cuts will ultimately entail, saying that he needs to take a look at exactly what the cuts are before weighing in. 

Similarly, a spokesperson for Republican Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar–whose district includes South Miami, where Iliana lives–declined to say what, if any, Republican-proposed SNAP restrictions Salazar would support in Congress.

Florida’s dismal record

The GOP’s refusal to support the SNAP program is not new for the Sunshine State. Florida has a long record of rejecting food stamp funding, says former lawmaker and current candidate for Florida Senate Carlos Guillermo Smith.

“The state gave up $5 billion in food benefits by opting out in 2021 two years early from an emergency allotment that expired in March,” Smith posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Smith added, also opted out of a pandemic food aid program for about 2 million children from low-income families, a move that cost the state $820 million.

In response to the Republican Party’s push to cut benefits, Democrats across the US have made clear that they will not consider further restrictions on SNAP. The current level of SNAP funding is due to expire at the end of September 2024, just weeks before the election. 

“Starving your own constituents of food assistance is not only bad morals. It’s bad politics,” Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) said on POLITICO.

In Florida, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program started the new year by sending out its 2024 round of payments to recipients Jan. 1. 

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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