SNAP benefits to be reduced Nov. 1

Dylan Lightfoot Staff Writer

October 30, 2013

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as “food stamps,” will be reduced for 2,275 Ashe County households Nov. 1, when temporary increases in benefits under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expire.

“We knew this four years ago,” said Ashe County Department of Social Services Director Donna Weaver. “It was purely for recovery and reinvestment, and that has ended.”

“It’s not a massive cut. I don’t think it will hurt too badly,” she said.

For a household of three, the cut will be $29 a month, while a household of four will lose $36 a month, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. For fiscal year 2014, SNAP benefits will average approximately $1.40 per person per meal.

Ashe Sharing Center Program Facilitator Micheal Sexton thinks the cuts may be significant for some. “That’s not a lot of money for most of us, but to somebody who gets $200 a month, it’s a 15 to 18 percent decrease.”

Based on the USDA’s “Thrifty Food Plan,” a family of four with two small children can feed themselves a healthy diet on $552.40 per month. A $36 cut represents seven percent of this food budget, or roughly 25 meals per month at $1.40 each.

The cuts may also affect local food pantries already struggling to keep up with high demand for food assistance. The Sharing Center, which normally stocks enough food to serve its clients for six months, now has enough for about 45 days, Sexton said.

“This is going to cut into it even more,” he said.

Weaver said 4,923 individuals in Ashe — about 18 percent of the population — will be affected by the cuts. Statewide, 1,708,000 will see their benefits return to 2009 levels, with 47,600,000 affected across the nation, according to the CBPP.

The average monthly SNAP benefit per recipient in N.C. in 2012 was $121.37. In 2009, the average was $97.19, according to the USDA.

Weaver said the state had decided not to send out mass mailings notifying SNAP recipients of pending cuts. “We’re relying on the media to inform people,” she said.

Additional cuts may be looming. The Nov. 1 SNAP roll-back will reduce program spending by $5 billion during the same week the U.S. House and Senate begin work on a new farm bill, with further cuts to SNAP possible.

The House version of the farm bill would cut $40 billion from the program over the next 10 years, denying SNAP benefits to about 3.8 million people in 2014, and an average of 3 million people each year for the next decade, according to the CBPP.