Cuomo and Faso trade shots on GOP food stamp proposal

In what is at least their fourth caustic battle by press release in the last year, Rep. John Faso and Gov. Andrew Cuomo went at it this week over a push by Faso and fellow House Republicans to expand work requirements for food stamp recipients and shift funding for food aid to job training programs.

Cuomo, a Democrat who previously traded harsh words with the freshman congressman over Medicaid, the Republican tax revision and more, unloaded on Monday in response to an Albany Times Union article about Faso’s support for stricter work rules for people receiving monthly subsidies to buy groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. He accused Faso of “resorting to the same divisive rhetoric we hear all too often in Washington today.”

“Faso’s assault on families in need and his despicable and cheap characterizations may please his party leadership, but they are against everything New York stands for,” Cuomo said, condemning the “draconian work requirements” inserted in the Republicans’ farm bill. He argued that SNAP fraud is rare and that most able-bodied adults already work, and touted New York’s increased SNAP enrollment.

“In New York, we are committed to lifting communities out of poverty and we reject the negative stigma that people like Faso attach to families struggling to get ahead,” Cuomo said.

Faso swung back with an immediate dig about Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent.

“Cynthia Nixon has caused Andrew Cuomo to become unhinged,” Faso wrote. “His criticism of enhanced work requirements for the SNAP program – while at the same time increasing the ability of a food stamp household to own a safe car and maintain a small savings account – show that this Governor prefers divisive rhetoric over governing.”

He acknowledged that fraud is a “small part of the SNAP program” but still amounts to $600 million and is worth rooting out. He then criticized what he said was the loose application of work rules under current law. “Our reforms will provide resources to states to get eligible people into employment and training programs,” he said. “A job is much better than dependency on government. Cuomo doesn’t get it, but taxpayers routinely see government programs abused by those taking advantage of the system, while they struggle to make ends meet.”

More than 42 million Americans – 1 in 8 people – are enrolled in SNAP, which provides funds on debit cards to help poor, elderly and disabled people buy groceries, an average of about $125 per person each month. New York has more than 2.8 million SNAP recipients, including 42,000 people in Orange County, 18,000 in Ulster County and 13,000 in Sullivan County.

The House Agriculture Committee voted 26-20 along party lines last month – with Faso, who serves on that committee, in support – to move the farm bill containing the SNAP changes to the House floor. The SNAP proposals have little chance of passing in the narrowly divided Senate, where supporters would need all or most Republicans plus some Democrats on board to reach the 60-vote threshold.

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    Chris McKenna

    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full
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