November 15th, 2017 – Your Vermont Foodbank is closely watching Washington’s deliberation on tax cut legislation, and has worked with Feeding America to develop a position that supports people with limited resources and inadequate access to nutritious food, both in Vermont and across the country. We ask you to join us and to add your voices to a tax policy that will support food security and by extension allow children to learn in school, seniors to live in dignity and of all families to thrive in strong communities.
The letter below was sent to every member of the House of Representatives expressing concern about how this bill would impact our neighbors facing hunger.
Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader Pelosi, Chairman Brady, and Ranking Member Neal:
I write to share Feeding America’s concerns about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) and its impact on the
individuals and families facing hunger in every community across our country. Without changes to address the
concerns outlined below, we are unable to support this legislation.
According to our recently-released Map the Meal Gap 2017 report, 1 in 8 individuals in the United States, and 1
in 6 children, are food insecure. All told, 42 million people live in households without consistent access to
adequate food, and the need among those who are food insecure continues to rise. Feeding America and our
network of 200 food banks and 60,000 community agencies provide more than 4 billion pounds of food annually
to more than 46 million people, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.
As the nation’s largest private response to domestic hunger, and the country’s third largest charitable
organization, Feeding America works to advance public policies that support food insecure individuals and
families and that expand the resources necessary for them to access nutritious food. Given that the aggregate
annual food budget shortfall for all food insecure individuals in the United States now stands at more than
$22.25 billion, our highest priority is protecting the federal nutrition programs that help these families access
the resources and nutrition needed to succeed.
At the same time, a large percentage of individuals, including children, who struggle with hunger fall outside the
public safety net, underscoring the profound need for private food assistance. In 2015, more than a quarter of
food insecure individuals nationwide lived in households that earned too much to qualify for most federal
nutrition assistance programs. For these working families, the generosity of individuals and corporations makes
possible vital food assistance that might not otherwise be available.
Taking into consideration both our work and our public policy priorities, Feeding America has evaluated the
impact of H.R. 1 on the individuals and families served by our network of food banks, as well as on both public
and private nutrition assistance efforts. We have determined that, regrettably, the legislation would provide
little direct benefit to food insecure individuals in the United States, and at the same time would undermine
efforts to assist those who struggle with adequate access to food.
Legislation as far-reaching and complex as H.R. 1 necessarily has many constituencies, and we recognize the
important tradeoffs required to advance different objectives. Unfortunately, the bill does not prioritize assisting
those taxpayers who are most at risk of being food insecure, and as a result they are not among the primary
beneficiaries of the bill’s nearly $6 trillion in tax reductions. On the whole, the legislation provides little direct,
tangible benefit to the individuals and families served by Feeding America.
At the same time, a number of the measure’s revenue raising proposals would reduce or eliminate current
provisions that directly benefit many lower-income individuals and underserved communities. These changes
include the elimination of the personal exemption, the repeal of numerous income-limited education benefits,
and the loss of tax credits that encourage the hiring of SNAP and TANF recipients and that stimulate investment
in low-income urban neighborhoods and rural communities.
Additionally, we are concerned that the increased deficits created by the legislation, and the resulting additional
debt that must be financed, will together place downward pressure on federal spending in both the short and
long term. It has been our experience that such pressure results in disproportionate cuts to programs intended
to help those most in need.
Indeed, the fiscal year House 2018 Budget Resolution mandated $10 billion in spending reductions from the
Agriculture Committee, with the expectation those cuts were to come from the SNAP program. The resolution
also recommended structural changes to the program that would have resulted in a further reduction of $150
billion over ten years. At a time when the amount needed to feed our hungry neighbors continues to rise, we
should not undermine federal nutrition assistance programs.
Finally, the bill’s changes to the standard deduction and the availability of itemized deductions would for tens of
millions of taxpayers effectively eliminate the deduction for charitable contributions, a provision in the tax code
that has for more than a century encouraged gifts to charity. The Joint Committee on Taxation has concluded
that the number of taxpayers who claim a charitable deduction would drop by more than 30 million, and that
the amount claimed would decline by nearly $95 billion. Earlier this year, an Indiana University study found that
changes similar to those in H.R. 1 could cause annual charitable giving to decline by approximately $10 billion.
Repealing the federal estate tax would remove another of the tax code’s giving incentives, with the
Congressional Budget Office previously estimating that repeal of the tax could cause charitable giving to decline
by as much as 11 percent. This would have translated to a loss of more than $30 billion in revenue for charities
last year. The loss of these giving incentives would have a devastating effect on a wide range of charitable
programs and services delivered in communities across the country, including those that provide much-needed
food assistance to hungry individuals and families.
As tax reform deliberations began, Feeding America was hopeful that the process would result in legislation that
eased the burdens on lower-income working families, continued to encourage Americans to give generously to
charity, and ensured the government had the resources necessary to meet our collective obligations to provide
for the health and well-being of our neighbors and our communities.
Unfortunately, in our view H.R. 1 does not generally prioritize support for those individuals and families most at
risk of facing hunger, does not support short- and long-term funding for federal nutrition assistance programs,
and does not preserve current levels of giving to charitable organizations. Given these concerns, Feeding
America cannot support H.R. 1 as currently written.
We know it is early in the process, and urge you to revisit the legislation and its impact on the people we serve.
President and CEO