4:39pm

Thu October 31, 2013
The Two-Way

Local Charities Gear Up For Cut To Food Stamp Benefits

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 6:06 am

More than 47 million Americans who receive food stamps will be getting a bit less starting Friday when a temporary benefit enacted as part of the federal stimulus expires.

The Department of Agriculture, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, or SNAP, as the food stamp program is formally known, says a family of four receiving $668 per month in benefits will see that amount cut by $36. One in 7 Americans receives food stamps.

The House has voted to cut $39 billion over the next decade from the program, which falls under the omnibus farm bill, while tightening eligibility requirements. The Senate has proposed cutting a far smaller amount.

CBS MarketWatch quotes Ross Fraser, a spokesman for Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity, as saying the Nov. 1 benefit cut "will be close to catastrophic for many people."

Rebecca Brislain, executive director of the Florida Association of Food Banks, says the cut will be "a significant hit for families; we already know SNAP doesn't last the whole month," but that the state's food banks stepped up their operations since the recession, boosting their collection and distribution from 72 million pounds of food a year to 173 million.

Georgia Public Broadcasting reports that food donation agencies in the state, which is home to nearly 2 million SNAP recipients, are scrambling. Richard Le Ber is with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which serves 29 counties in Georgia. He tells GPB that the cuts contemplated by the House bill are the largest he's ever seen.

"We're putting our plans together for how we're going to meet demand," he says. "But it's hard to predict exactly how this is going to happen because we've never seen these kinds of cuts before. So we're going to be monitoring very closely what they're seeing, and how individuals in Georgia are coping with these cuts."

In Montana, which has 125,000 recipients, Lorianne Burhop, public policy manager of the Montana Food Bank Network, says she's been keeping in close contact with the state's lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"I talked to them about the importance of the Farm Bill to get updates from them on what's happening, and just share some numbers on what we're seeing in Montana in terms of need," Burhop says. "To cut the program so dramatically it would simply increase hunger in Montana."

And in New Jersey, where an estimated 428,000 households are getting SNAP benefits, FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez says the cut means a shortfall of $90 million in the state.

"To put it bluntly, we can't come in and make up $90 million across the state. We just can't," he says. "We've increased our distribution and continue to increase our distribution to meet the current need without these cuts. So this is just going to put an [undue] pressure on families and the community."

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