Cuts to food stamp program begin Friday
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Just weeks after escaping $40 billion in cuts by the U.S. House of Representatives, the federal food stamp program still will see an estimated $5 billion in cuts beginning Friday.
Congress in 2009 passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, increasing benefits to families in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
That boost was meant to help people through the economic downturn that began in late 2008. Lawmakers also made sure the increase would only be temporary, lasting until Friday.
West Virginia will see a $2.7 million reduction in SNAP benefits for November. Those cuts will affect 291,000 of the state's 352,000 food stamp recipients.
Families were notified by mail in October of the decreased benefits.
Marsha Stowers, SNAP Senior Policy Specialist at the state Bureau for Children and Families, said the agency has not received any questions about the reductions. There's little the state can do, however, because the reductions came from the federal level.
The level of cuts depends on several factors, including a family's income, household size and expenses. Generally, individuals' benefits would decrease by $11 per month, while a family of four would see a decrease of $36 per month.
Stowers said larger families would see larger cuts. A family of six, for instance, will receive $52 less in SNAP benefits this month.
Charleston dietitian Amy Gannon said she's worried the decrease will have a negative affect on SNAP families' health, especially children.
"Thirty six dollars doesn't seem like a lot, but if your food budget is $200 a month, $36 is a significant chunk of that. You're talking about milk and cereal and meat," she said. "They have low paying jobs, or they wouldn't' be on SNAP to begin with. You're talking about children who go hungry."
Gannon, who works at Charleston Area Medical Center's Healthy Kids Weight Management Clinic, said many children have a problem with being overfed but undernourished. They are overweight because their parents don't have much money to buy food, and end up purchasing a lot of processed, fatty foods because they are often cheaper than healthier alternatives.
SNAP helps those parents stretch their food budgets.
House Republicans in September narrowly passed a bill slicing $40 billion from SNAP appropriations over the next decade.
The Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate likely will not take up that bill. President Barack Obama also has threatened to veto the legislation.
More than 47.7 million people nationwide participate in SNAP.