Benefits to families on food stamps are being reduced by about 5 percent, or $36 per month for a family of four, starting Friday. The reason: A temporary expansion of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program included in the stimulus passed in 2009 is expiring. Meanwhile, Congress is considering further reductions to the program’s budget, which has doubled since 2008 as the economic crisis has led more people to ask for help buying food:
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 the Senate would cut food stamps, reductions that would come on top of the cut that will go into effect Friday. But the two chambers are far apart on the amounts.
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.
In and around Washington, charities are getting ready to help people in need:
The Capital Area Food Bank, which supplies food for about 500 service organizations, is already buying more food, according to Nancy Roman, the organization’s executive director. Anticipating the cuts, Roman said, they have purchased 50 percent more food this month than last — including 1,020 bags of sweet potatoes, 680 bags of mixed greens, 340 cans of tomatoes and 1,036 pounds of ground turkey.
“We’re trying to put ourselves in a position where we can help people who need food,’’ Roman said. . . .
Foot traffic had slowed to a trickle outside Murry’s supermarket in Northeast Washington on Thursday.
“I don’t know how much I’ll be getting tomorrow,’’ said Shanita Allen, 20, as she walked past the store with her 3-year-old, Jaden. “But I’m worried about if they cut any more. People need to eat, and jobs are hard to come by. I need it to stay as is.”
State governments are also considering removing some residents from the program:
In 2013, 44 states qualified for federal waivers that would allow more able-bodied adults to receive food stamps if unemployment in the area was particularly high. House Republicans want to curtail those waivers as part of their farm bill. But even if the House GOP doesn’t get its way, some states are planning to stop asking for waivers anyway.
Kansas already let its waiver expire at the start of October, a change that could affect some 20,000 residents. The Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill to add a similar work requirement to its food-stamp program. Ohio is planning to enact similar restrictions starting Jan. 1, and Wisconsin will follow suit next July.
So even if the cuts in the House bill fail, many states could act on their own to shrink the number of food-stamp recipients.
About 1 in 7 Americans — more than 47 million people — receive food stamps.