Food stamps: why cuts affecting 48 million Americans begin Friday
Food stamps cuts on Friday amount to $5 billion, and additional cuts could occur via a farm bill. More Americans are on food stamps than at almost any other point in the past decade.
Millions of Americans will be expected to make do with less as of Friday, as $5 billion in cuts to the US food stamp program takes effect. The cuts to the program, formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), will pinch almost 48 million people and could be followed by an even bigger slash.Skip to next paragraph
Elizabeth Barber is a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and English from SUNY Geneseo. Before coming to the Monitor, she was a freelance reporter at DNAinfo, a New York City breaking news site. She has also been an intern at The Cambodia Daily, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and at Washington D.C.’s The Middle East Journal.
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The cuts come as a four-year increase in funding to the food stamp program reaches its expiration date. Government support for the program had been increased in 2009, as part of the broad stimulus package designed to help strapped Americans piece back together what had been lost during the recession.
The food stamp cuts, scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1, are distinct from possible additional slashes to the program included in the farm bill – broad legislation covering America’s agriculture and nutrition policies, including the food stamp program. The House version of the bill calls for a reduction in spending on food stamps by $40 billion over the next decade. The Senate is proposing less-significant cuts of about $4 billion.
The end to the food stamp provisions in the stimulus program will reduce government spending some $5 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. The impact that the funding curtailment will have on people receiving benefits will depend on household size. For a family of four receiving a maximum food stamp allotment, benefits will decrease from $668 to $632 per month, a decrease of $36, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said.
The cuts come at a time when more Americans are on food stamps than at almost any other point in the past decade. In fiscal year 2006, about a year before the recession, the number of people on food stamps was about 26 million. As of this July, the most recent month for which data are available, almost 48 million people are enrolled in the program, or about a seventh of the US population.
In 2009, noting the burgeoning numbers of Americans who had lost their jobs, homes, or both, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The set of measures, including a now-lapsed payroll tax “holiday,” was modeled on the idea that helping struggling Americans find their footing again could help jump-start an entire community’s economy: Each dollar in food stamp benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity, according to Moody’s Analytics.