The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, popularly known as food stamps, is set be downsized starting Nov. 1 when a temporary funding boost to the program enacted in 2009 is scheduled to end, resulting in cuts affecting every U.S. household using the program.
The cuts, amounting to about $5 billion, will likely take effect as scheduled because chances of Congress restoring additional funding -- as President Barack Obama and some congressional members had earlier proposed -- appear remote at a time when Republicans have demanded even deeper cuts to the program.
The food stamps program costs the government about $80 billion a year and helps almost 15 percent of U.S. households, or 47.6 million people, buy food. The figure has jumped considerably since 2007, when 26.3 million people, or 8.7 percent of the population, were enrolled in the program.
On average, a person receives $133.19 a month under SNAP and an annual cut of $5 billion translates to $29 less in food stamps a month for a family of three and a total of $319 from November 2013 through September 2014, according to an estimate by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP.
“A reduction in SNAP benefit levels of this size will significantly increase the number of poor households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall,” CBPP said.
“These cuts will likely cause hardship for some SNAP participants, who will include 22 million children in 2014 (10 million of whom live in ‘deep poverty,’ with family incomes below half of the poverty line) and 9 million people who are elderly or have a serious disability,” CBPP said in a report, adding that the present cuts would deprive a four-member family of 21 meals a month.
The program received a funding boost in response to the recession in 2009, when the number of people signing up for food stamps increased, to help people hit by increased unemployment.
“States need to begin planning for the reduction to ensure that clients and the many organizations and SNAP stakeholders who work with them are aware of the upcoming change and its effects,” CBPP said.