Home News Local News SNAP cuts set to begin
SNAP cuts set to begin
Stimulus funding expires at end of month, meaning those receiving food assistance will get less each month
Beginning Friday, families receiving federal assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will have less money each month for food.
Stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 temporarily increased allocations for the program, which provides economic benefits for low-income individuals and families nationwide. That increased funding, however, expires Thursday.
“One of the biggest problems we see with this cut is it is really going to affect senior citizens and people with disabilities who are unable to go out and get a job,” said Carmen Gentry, Community Connection of Northeast Oregon’s food bank manager. “There are no companies or businesses I know of in Eastern Oregon who will give jobs to a fragile senior citizen.”
According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, 5,555 people received SNAP benefits from the La Grande office in September. DHS District 13, which includes Union, Baker and Wallowa counties, reported 10,333 people receiving benefits that month. Statewide, one in five Oregonians benefit from SNAP, according to DHP.
Officials say they had hoped the program’s cost-of-living increases would cover the difference when stimulus funding expired, but most recipients will see a decrease in their monthly SNAP
Decreases in monthly assistance depend on household size, income and other factors.
“Some folks will lose $1 and some will lose as much as $46,” said Belit Burke, Oregon’s SNAP manager.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency that administers the program, the average monthly benefit per Oregonian enrolled in SNAP in 2012 was $128.15.
And though some SNAP recipients may not notice a small decrease, Burke says even $10 or $15 can make a big difference to families. That’s why letters have already gone out to SNAP recipients in order to give them time to prepare for the change.
“If you’re living on a tight budget, even a little bit of money that gets pulled out of the budget means you have to refigure what you can buy,” Burke said. “People are concerned. They’re worried about how they’re going to work their budgets.”
Less money for food, Burke says, means more people likely will be turning to food banks for help.
“I think it will cause an increased burden on the food banks. A lot of these folks only make it to the third week of the month and then go to the food bank,” Burke said.
At the same time, the Oregon Food Bank and local food pantries are urging Congress to stop further cuts to the assistance program. The House of Representatives in September voted to cut $40 billion from the program over the next decade in its version of the federal farm bill. The Senate voted to cut $4 million over the same time period. A conference committee is slated to begin discussing resolving the bills Wednesday.
“We know for a fact that if the SNAP program continues to get cuts more people are going to be in line at the food banks, and that is not what we want,” Community Connection’s Gentry said. “Many pantries have already cut back the amount of food that we are giving out to people to a three-day supply of food.”