Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps, are coming this Friday.
The amount of Food Stamps benefits per person were increased during the recession with the 2009 Recovery Act, but the increase was intended to be temporary. The cuts this Friday are part of the expiration of the temporary increase. $11 billion in cuts will continue to be made gradually through 2016.
Unfortunately, 47.6 million people depend on SNAP right now. Two-thirds of those recipients are children, elderly, or disabled people. The other third of SNAP beneficiaries are Americans who need food assistance largely because of continued unemployment and underemployment. With an unemployment rate hovering around 7.2%, it doesn’t seem likely these people will find jobs soon. Underemployment also contributes to the problem. For instance, a recent study showed that more than half of the families of fast food workers use government programs to make ends meet. $1.09 billion goes to fast food workers for food assistance each year.
The cuts occurring November 1 amount to a little over 5% of the assistance. In other words, if a family of four is receiving the maximum benefit of $668 per month, the cuts will reduce that amount by $36. $668 per month gives a family $1.85 per person per meal. That $36 will mean nineteen fewer meals, or about a day and a half without food for each family member.
Food Stamps are a part of the Farm Bill, which is still being debated in Congress and might come to a vote this week. Republicans are asking for massive cuts to SNAP as well as higher thresholds for qualifying. It seems unlikely that anyone will step forward to prevent the expiration of the benefits from the 2009 Recovery Act, since both the Senate and the House have large cuts to the Food Stamps portion of the Farm Bill.
Grocery receipts image via Shutterstock