GLENS FALLS — A small group of citizens protested outside U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s downtown office Thursday to urge her not to vote on the upcoming Farm Bill, which contains $20 billion in cuts in the food stamp program.
Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, carried a sign that read, “SNAP Out of it Elise. Don’t Cut Food Stamps 4 Families.” SNAP refers to the formal name of the food stamp program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Deutsch, whose organization defines itself as a nonpartisan research and education organization that works to improve economic and social conditions for New York state residents, said the proposed cuts would affect nearly 40,000 households in the NY-21 Congressional District. About 9 percent of families are living in poverty.
“She’s going to do a lot of harm to a lot of people in this district,” she said.
In addition, Deutsch said the proposed legislation imposes onerous work requirements.
“If you fail to meet your work requirements, you’re cut from food stamps for one year,” he said.
That increases to three years on a second offense, he added.
The cuts would also affect the approximately 750 food retailers in the district that accept SNAP benefits, according to Deutsch.
Republicans released their draft bill last month. The current Farm Bill is set to expire in September.
Stefanik spokesman Tom Flanagin said the congresswoman plans to support the Farm Bill and that the proposed SNAP changes do not result in any net cuts to funding for the program. Also, all savings as a result of the changes are reinvested in workforce training.
“Congresswoman Stefanik believes that SNAP is a critical program that supports the disadvantaged in our North Country communities and across the nation. She also believes that the key to escaping the cycle of poverty is work,” Flanagin said in an email. “While many current SNAP recipients do work, there are many others who would benefit from access to job training to develop the skills they need to join or re-enter the workforce.”
The protest coincided with the one-year anniversary of Stefanik’s vote in favor of the American Health Care Act, which would have replaced Obamacare. To mark the point, a couple of women wore hospital gowns and fake plastic buttocks to symbolize what they said is Stefanik not caring if people are covered by health insurance.
Dr. George Jolly, a retired physician, said the Congressional Budget Office reported that the vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, would have caused 23 million Americans to lose their health insurance.
“Representative Stefanik does not understand or she does not care about the consequence,” she said.
The group expressed its support for universal single-payer health care.
Another concern was the high cost of prescription drugs.
Resident Steve Baratta said he is living with AIDS and must take 14 pills a day, and the medications cost upwards of $110,000 a year. These medicines have been on the market for many years.
“The pharmaceutical companies that developed these drugs claim they need to recover their research dollars,” he said. “Don’t you think after 17 years, they’ve made their money back?”
Sara Carpenter of Queensbury spoke about her concerns about the cost of her husband’s medication for leukemia totaling $12,000 per month.
She said Stefanik, R-Willsboro, should support a bill in Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of life-saving medication. Other suggestions expressed were to allow importing of medications and cap the amount people pay for these medications.
Sara Couch, health-care advocate for the Healthcare Education Project and a cancer survivor, said she is fortunate she has health insurance. Her organization educates people about health care issues and the problem of the uninsured in New York.
Al Ormsby, of Citizen Action of New York, wrapped up the protest by saying that if the Republicans retain control of Congress in November, he is convinced they will make another run to repeal Obamacare.
“The Republican president and Congress has done everything they can to sabotage the health care system,” he said.
Citizen Action defines itself as a progressive organization focusing on quality health care, education, public financing of campaigns and other causes.
Flanagin defended the congresswoman’s health care record, saying she led the effort to fund community health centers such as Hudson Headwaters Health Network, which serves over 95,000 patients in the district. She sponsored legislation that provided a two-year extension of the health center program in the budget agreement.
Stefanik led the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers over 21,000 children in the district, Flanagin added.