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Millions Face Cuts In Food Assistance

WI Staff Report from New American Media | 8/14/2013, 3 p.m.
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In Michigan, 1.8 million people will see a cut in their food assistance benefits this fall, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps — is set to expire, according to a new report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

All of the more than 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who receive SNAP will see their food assistance reduced, when a modest boost in benefits to SNAP recipients, which policymakers included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to strengthen the economy and ease hardship, expires on Oct. 31.

For a family of three, that cut will mean a reduction of $29 a month—$319 for the remaining 11 months of the fiscal year.

This is a serious loss for families whose benefits, after this cut, will average less than $1.40 per person, per meal. “So many struggling families in Michigan have been helped by this small increase in food assistance benefits at a time when we faced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” stated Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“This modest assistance is a lifeline to many families with breadwinners, who are struggling to find work, or are working at jobs that do not pay them enough to put food on the table.”

In addition to helping feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the fastest, most effective, ways to stimulate a struggling economy. Every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity.

The across-the-board cuts, scheduled for November, will reduce the program by $5 billion in fiscal year 2014 alone.

In Michigan, it will mean an estimated loss of $183 million in benefits. Cuts of that magnitude will have a significant impact on low-income families. It will be the first time SNAP reductions impact all participants, including 22 million children nationwide.

Kareemah El-Amin, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, said nearly 24 percent of Michigan children are food insecure.

On top of these across-the-board cuts to the program, the U.S. House of Representatives recently defeated legislation that would have cut $20 billion from SNAP, eliminating food assistance for nearly 2 million people.

That legislation would have provided strong financial incentives to states to reduce their caseloads. This could leave many families and their children without assistance to put food on the table when they need it most. The House is considering, and could vote on, even deeper cuts to the program in the coming weeks.

“Most of the people on the Food Assistance Program are either unable to work, or are already working,” said Terri Stangl, executive director of the Center for Civil Justice, which operates a Food and Nutrition Program helpline. “The program is doing what it was designed to do: Meet a temporary need when families are struggling, because someone is laid off, or offered fewer hours of work. Now is not the time to reduce this modest source of help with something as basic as food.”