November brings cut to SNAP benefits

November brings cut to SNAP benefits

With the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s (ARRA) temporary boost to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) set to end Nov. 1, Southeast Texas families can expect to see a decrease in their SNAP benefits beginning in November and lasting through at least September 2014, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

The nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C., examines the short- and long-term impacts of proposed budget and tax policies on the economy, on federal and state budgets, and on households in different income groups and whether federal and state governments are addressing critical priorities, both for low- and moderate-income Americans and for the population as a whole, according to its website.

The SNAP program has never experienced a reduction in benefit levels that affected all of its participants but will for the first time in November, according to the CBPP report.

“A small number of households with three or more members that receive small SNAP benefits will lose benefits altogether,” the report states.

Families will receive an average 7 percent cut in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, equaling $36/month for a family of four and draining $411 million from anti-hunger efforts in Texas over the next year, according to a press release by the Texas Food Bank Network (TFBN).

“Every dollar counts for a family facing hunger,” said Celia Cole, CEO of TFBN. “This unconscionable cut will add insult to injury when families suddenly find they are unable to buy a Thanksgiving turkey.”

The decrease in SNAP will mean a benefit cut for each of the nearly 48 million SNAP recipients — 87 percent of whom live in households with children, seniors, or people with disabilities — and will take away 21 meals per month for a family of four, or 16 meals for a family of three, based on CBPP calculations using the $1.70 to $2 per meal provided in the Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for SNAP allotments.

According to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), upon examining ARRA’s impact on low-income households’ food security, ERS researches found that ARRA SNAP enhancements increased food spending by low-income households and improved their food security during unusually challenging economic times.

“The improvements in food security rates in 2009 correspond to about 530,000 fewer food-insecure households and 480,000 fewer households with very low food security than would have been expected considering economic and demographic changes from 2008 to 2009,” The USDA report states.

In addition to the November cuts, SNAP recipients could expect further reductions in the future after a Sept. 19 vote of 217-210 in the U.S. House in favor of the passage of the Cantor Nutrition Bill (H.R. 3102), a bill spearheaded by Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor that would cut food assistance by $40 billion and nearly 4 million people off the program in the next year, including children, seniors, veterans and disabled Americans, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry website.

Stabenow said the bill, which was received by the Senate on Sept. 23 for consideration, would also cut worker training and job placement programs for people who are trying to get back to work and get off SNAP.

“This bill is designed to give people a hand when they need it most,” said Cantor in an address to the House Sept. 19. “Most people don’t choose to be on food stamps. Most people want a job. Most people want to go out and be productive so that they can earn a living, so that they can support a family, so that they can have hope for a more prosperous future. They want what we want. There may be some who choose to abuse this system – that’s not out of the realm of possibility – frankly it’s wrong. It’s wrong for hardworking, middle class Americans to pay for that.”

Cole said the combination of the Cantor Bill and the already looming Nov. 1 SNAP cuts would be too much for Texas families to endure.

“The cuts contained in this bill, when paired with already-scheduled reductions facing SNAP households this November, are greater than the entire output of the charitable food banking system in the United States, including our 21 Texas food banks,” Cole said. “While we are dismayed by this vote, there is still time for our elected leaders to reconnect with their struggling constituents and do the right thing. We call on every member of Congress, the Congressional leadership and the White House to right this terrible wrong when the House and Senate meet to negotiate a final farm bill.

“Our food banks are doing everything they can to help struggling Texans put food on the table and decrease hunger. Can Congress say the same?”