Food Stamp Cuts Begin

The monthly cut in the federal food stamp program, which took effect on Friday, will be felt by nearly 6,000 individuals in Warren County.

More than 47 million Americans who receive food stamps saw their benefits reduced as a temporary 2009 economic stimulus that boosted food stamp funds expired on Friday. That leaves a family of four that receives food stamps with $36 less a month or with $1.40 less per person per meal.

A household of one person will see a monthly reduction of $11; two people, $20; three people, $29; four people, $36; five people, $43; six people, $52; seven people, $57; and eight people, $65.

The benefits, which go to one in seven Americans, fluctuate based on factors that include food prices, inflation and income. The rolls have swelled as the economy has struggled in recent years, with the stimulus providing higher benefits and many people signing up for the first time, according to the Associated Press.

Marie Bean, director of the Sheffield Area Ecumenical Food Pantry, where she has worked for over 30 years, said on Friday that she expects more residents to use the program.

“I think we’ll be getting more applications and probably have to supply more families,” she said.

The food pantry relies on 40 volunteers to serve 100 families in the Sheffield and Clarendon area with a box and bag of items each month.

Bean said the residents who visit the food pantry are typically working families and elderly residents who are trying to live off of retirement.

“I would expect more people, yes,” Thomas Dunn, president of the Sheffield Area Ecumenical Food Pantry, said. “Thirty-six dollars a month is quite a chunk…if you don’t have $36 it’s a lot of money.”

The program has more than doubled in cost since 2008, now costing almost $80 billion a year. That large increase in spending has turned the program now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP into a target for House Republicans looking to reduce spending.

According to the Department of Public Welfare, as of September:

2,624 households in Warren County received SNAP benefits

5,862 individuals in Warren County received SNAP benefits, of which 2,243 were age 0-17; 2,267 were age 18-45; 1,029 were age 46-64; 323 were 65 years or older

1.8 million households in Pennsylvania utilized SNAP benefits

869,157 households in Pennsylvania received the 2012 average monthly SNAP benefit of $265.86

Benefit cuts will also hit the 59,300 veterans who received SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania between 2009 and 2011, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a policy-research group in Washington.

“Veterans who participate in SNAP tend to be young, but their ages range widely: 57 percent of the veterans in our analysis are under age 30, while 9 percent are aged 60 or older. They served during many conflicts, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam, and in some cases, Korea and World War II, as well as in peacetime,” the group said on Monday.

Negotiations on a wide-ranging farm bill, including cuts to the SNAP program, began Wednesday. Five-year farm bills passed by both the House and Senate would cut food stamps, reductions that would come on top of the cut that went into effect Friday. But the chambers are far apart on the amounts, the AP reported.

Legislation passed by the GOP-controlled House would cut food stamps by an additional $4 billion annually and tighten eligibility requirements. The House bill would also end government waivers that have allowed able-bodied adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely and allow states to put broad new work requirements in place.

The Senate farm bill would cut a tenth of the House amount, with Democrats and President Barack Obama opposing major cuts.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 29,496 of the 256,883 households in Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District, represented by Rep. Glenn Thompson, received SNAP funds in 2011. Of those,

25.5 percent had one or more people 60 years and over

46.7 percent had children under 18 years old

56 percent were listed below the poverty level

96.3 percent were white

The 12-month median household income was $15,820

18,263 were listed as families

25.4 percent had no workers in the past 12 months

49.9 percent had one worker in the 12 months

24.6 percent had two or more workers in the past 12 months

“The SNAP program plays a critical role in the battle against hunger for children, seniors and families across Pennsylvania and throughout our nation,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said in a press release on Friday. “The expiration of increased SNAP benefits at this time will also have a negative impact on Pennsylvania’s economy. For every dollar invested in this program, it is estimated that the economy gets $1.75 in return. The program fuels consumer spending while providing much needed nutrition for 1.7 million Pennsylvanians.”

According to Casey, the SNAP cuts will translate into:

$52,930 in benefits lost in one month

$635,156 in benefits lost in one year

19,898 meals lost in one month

238,780 meals lost in one year