Nearly 4K locals to feel food stamp cut

Published 1:29 am Saturday, November 2, 2013

Alabama families receiving food stamps will have to make do on a little less beginning this month.

Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were announced Friday.

SNAP benefits are funded with 100 percent federal dollars through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, and may only be used to purchase food.

The cuts mark the end of a modest boost to SNAP benefits, which was enacted in the Recovery Act of 2009 and designed to help strengthen the economy and ease hardship.

More than 900,000 Alabamians – or nearly one in five – are impacted by the cut.

For a family of three in Alabama, the cuts mean a reduction of $29 each month. Families’ benefits this month now will average less than $1.40 per person, per meal.

Covington County DHR Director Lesa Syler said 3,190 households received food stamp benefits in October, which included 7,665 individuals or recipients. Those benefits put $987,019 into the local economy, she said.

“While many families and individuals do not receive the maximum benefit, a family of four receiving the maximum benefit will see their benefit decrease from $668 to $632 per month, and an individual recipient receiving the maximum benefit will see a decrease from $200 to $189 per month,” she said.

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said the program “helped families keep food on the table as they seek to get themselves back on their feet. It also helped 144,000 Alabama households with elderly or disabled people weather the recession.”

In addition to helping feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the most effective ways to stimulate a struggling economy, Forrister said.

Studies show that every $1 increase in SNAP benefits in a distressed economy creates about $1.70 in economic activity. As the temporary SNAP increase ends, Alabama will lose $98 million in the next 11 months. Of that amount, $71 million would have gone to 423,000 children and their families.

“SNAP has been a powerful tool to keep families out of poverty during the long recession and recovery, and for most of the 910,000 Alabamians still on SNAP, it doesn’t feel like the recession has ended,” Forrister said. “To adjust for this week’s cuts, many struggling families in Alabama will literally have to tighten their belts.”

The U.S. House recently voted for an additional $40 billion in SNAP cuts that would come on top of the cuts taking effect Friday.

If enacted, the House-approved plan could deny SNAP benefits to 74,000 Alabamians and nearly 4 million people nationwide, according to estimates by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, R-Ala., and Mike Rogers, R-Ala., are among the members of the House-Senate conference committee working out the final version of the farm bill.