Children’s HealthWatch Statement On the Debt Ceiling

Imposing restrictions that take food and other basic needs away from children and families with low incomes are an imminent threat to their short and long-term health and well-being. Despite decades of research demonstrating the beneficial health effects of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Republican leaders have misguidedly targeted these programs as they hold up increases to the US debt ceiling. As a network of pediatricians and public health researchers, Children’s HealthWatch is deeply alarmed by these efforts that would place an estimated 1 million children at risk of poor health, greater need for acute health care, developmental delays and family economic hardship as a result of losing benefits. Specifically, our research shows that terminating or reducing cash assistance benefits is associated with increased child hospitalizations, maternal depression, and food insecurity. Children in families that struggle to afford food have higher health care costs – food insecurity among young children and mothers costs our nation more than $160 billion per year in avoidable health costs. While families with children are excluded from the proposed SNAP restrictions, we know from our clinical experience that policies which place sanctions on adults often have ripple effects on children. For example, many SNAP participants without claimed dependents are non-custodial parents who support their children. Ensuring that all families stay connected to these programs is essential. We urge Congress and the Administration to unequivocally oppose proposed changes that would undoubtedly harm the health of families and children across the nation.