DeKALB – Congressman Adam Kinzinger was heartened to see shelves at the DeKalb Salvation Army Food Pantry were well stocked when he visited Monday.
Kinzinger, a Channahon Republican whose 16th District includes northwest DeKalb County, went on a daylong tour of organizations that provide services for struggling individuals and families. Along with the stop in DeKalb, Kinzinger also visited the Rockford Rescue Mission and We Care of Grundy County, a food pantry.
“For three decades, my father ran a shelter, the Home Sweet Home Mission in Bloomington,” Kinzinger said. “I understand need and how agencies leverage private dollars.”
Both Kinzinger and his colleague, Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Winfield Republican, complimented the work of community food pantries while emphasizing their support for closing loopholes in eligibility for food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Beyond assistance, government officials need to strengthen the economy to provide good jobs for those in need, both Hultgren and Kinzinger said.
“Ultimately, the surest weapon against hunger and poverty is a thriving economy,” said Hultgren, whose 14th District includes DeKalb, Sycamore and southern DeKalb County. “When one in seven Americans is on food stamps, we need to redouble our efforts to create jobs for those without them.”
Food stamps comprise roughly 75 percent of the Farm Bill that has been extended into January, as the House and Senate attempt to craft a new five-year measure, Kinzinger said. Both the Senate and the House have passed farm bills this year, but they differ on how much to cut the nation’s food stamp program and how to restructure farm subsidies.
The House passed a bill in September that would cut $4 billion from food stamps annually and allow states to create new work requirements for some recipients, a measure both Kinzinger and Hultgren supported.
The Democratic Senate, backed by President Barack Obama, passed a farm bill with a $400 million annual cut, or a tenth of the House cut.
“The compromise between the House and Senate contains only slight cuts to food stamps,” Kinzinger said. “It’s not cutting benefits for those in need; it’s working to close loopholes in eligibility.”
Hultgren said he supports reform measures that limit food stamps to the neediest Americans.
“Recipients should meet eligibility guidelines to participate, and I will continue to support SNAP benefits to those who quality, preserving the safety net for those who need it most,” Hultgren said.
Kinzinger said there’s a faint light at the end of the tunnel on the economic front, with “the slowest recovery we’ve ever seen.”
Although unemployment benefits have been extended far longer than before the 2008 recession, Hultgren said he’s awaiting a request from President Barack Obama with recommendations on how to pay for a $25 billion extension of unemployment benefits.
“This request and budget offsets for increased spending should be the first item of business for the president in the new year,” Hultgren said.
Kinzinger believes the No. 1 thing government should do is “get out of the way of entrepreneurs and small businesses by encouraging people to take risks so they can hire people.”
• The Associated Press contributed to this story.