By C.N. Staff Writer
The federal food stamp program recently received cuts in its funding, affecting millions of Americans across the country. Food stamp benefits to 47 million Americans were cut starting November 1st as a temporary boost to the federal program comes to an end without new funding from a deadlocked Congress.
Under the program, known formally as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, or SNAP, a family of four that gets $668 per month in benefits will find that amount cut by $36. The reduction returns food-stamp benefits to the level they would have been without the infusion of stimulus cash since 2009. That money is now spent, and the average individual monthly benefit is dropping from about $133 to $125.40. Roughly $7.60.
Food stamps are the government’s biggest nutrition-assistance program for low-income people and, along with federal unemployment benefits, a key support system for the most vulnerable Americans. 1 in 7 Americans will be affected by the cuts, most of whom live in households with children, seniors or people with disabilities. Barring congressional intervention, the maximum payment for a family of four will shrink from $668 a month to $632, or $432 over the course of a year. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the program, which amounts to 21 meals per month.
Unemployment, relaxed eligibility standards and aggressive marketing to recruit food-stamp participants all contributed to the swelling food-stamp rolls. The number of able-bodied adults under the age of 50 without children on food stamps grew by 163.7 percent from 2007 to 2011. Total welfare spending has increased 16-fold since 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty and is now more than $1 trillion annually.
The Senate version of the measure, which spends nearly $1 trillion over 10 years, calls for a cut of $4.5 billion in food-stamp spending while the House has passed a 5 percent cut of $39.5 billion. GOP support for the House cuts prompted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to charge that Republicans were “taking food out of the mouths of babies.” The new farm bill that lawmakers are negotiating will almost certainly shrink that number because both chambers want to make fewer people eligible for the benefits.
Local food banks will be most affected by the cuts. Food banks served 37 million Americans in 2010, up from 25 million in 2006, according to the most recent numbers from Feeding America, an umbrella organization for 200 food banks nationwide. “Our network is already overburdened with a tremendous increase in need,” says Maura Daly, a Feeding America spokeswoman.
In D.C. SNAP is administered by the Department of Human Services’ Economic Security Administration (ESA). In Fiscal Year 2011, over 135,000 D.C. residents benefited from the SNAP program. D.C. Hunger Solutions partners with ESA to provide information, outreach, training to community partners, and application assistance to help connect more eligible residents to SNAP/Food Stamps.