Opening Statement: Nutrition Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Walorski Joint Hearing with Ways & Means Committee: Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: How Our Welfare System Can Discourage Work

Jun 25, 2015

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you to Chairman Ryan and Subcommittee Chairman Boustany for hosting this historic joint hearing between our two committees as we better explore how our welfare system can discourage work. 

As the chair of the Nutrition Subcommittee, we have spent the past five months exploring the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.  Our review of the Past, Present, and Future of SNAP has brought us to today, where we will explore real issues with another committee that is having many of the same discussions as us.

Throughout our review, I have stressed that we can’t just examine SNAP in a vacuum. We must recognize there are other programs that exist and explore how they work – or don’t work – together.   In my home state of Indiana, my fellow Hoosiers, care less about what committee has control of which program. Instead, they care more about how we, as legislators, work together. Today is the next step in that process.

During our last hearing, witnesses discussed the importance of case management and how they engage with recipients. We heard stories detailing the barriers they face. For instance, workers near the poverty line who are eligible for multiple assistance programs stand to lose financially by increasing their income, as their benefits are phased out. This is described by analysts as the welfare cliff. In the face of such a scenario, many forego raises or put in fewer hours. Individual programs may attempt to address this, but it requires a broader view of how programs interact to ensure we as policymakers are not inadvertently discouraging work.

Welfare programs should support those in need, not deter them from reaching their full potential in the workplace. I worry that this ‘cliff’ is a serious obstacle when recipients try to enter, re-enter, and remain in the workforce in order to climb the economic ladder. Helping recipients move into better paying jobs not only benefits their families but also taxpayers.  I’m looking forward to hearing about ways to explore how we can improve the operation of these programs in order to help millions of Americans seeking a better future.

Again, I thank Chairman Ryan and Subcommittee Chairman Boustany for hosting, and I look forward to working with them in the future. I also want to thank all of our witnesses for being here with us today and look forward to their testimony.