Cut in food stamp benefits coming as stimulus expires in November

2013-08-07T17:43:00Z 2013-08-08T00:26:28Z Cut in food stamp benefits coming as stimulus expires in NovemberBy CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau The Billings Gazette

HELENA — More than 130,000 Montanans will see reductions in food assistance Nov. 1 when a temporary increase to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ends, the

U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

This would result in an estimated 8 percent reduction in monthly benefits for those in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP,

formerly known as food stamps.

The average benefit cut would amount $10 a month per person on SNAP, said Jackie Semmens, a policy analyst for the Montana Budget and Policy Center, an

advocacy group based in Helena.

Last month, the average SNAP benefit for a Montana recipient was $124 a month, the state Department of Public Health and Human Services said.

In July, 129,450 Montanans received SNAP benefits, the state agency said.

At issue is the scheduled end in November of a temporary boost to SNAP, which was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 2009 federal stimulus law.

About 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, draw SNAP benefits.

A Montana family of three will have $29 less a month to put food on the table if the temporary boost ends, Semmens said.

“This increase in SNAP benefits has meant tens of thousands of families in Montana do not have to choose between buying medicine or cooking dinner, keeping the lights on or

feeding kids breakfast,” Semmens said.

“As we are still climbing out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, now is not the time to cut back on a program that benefits Montana workers, families and economy.”

The cuts scheduled for November would reduce the SNAP program here by $13 million in fiscal 2014, Semmens said.

These benefits, she said, also help famers and grocery stores sell their goods to customers who otherwise might not be able to afford them.

The U.S. House recently defeated a bill that would have cut $20 billion from SNAP, eliminating food assistance for nearly 2 million people.

The House also voted recently to remove SNAP from the farm bill, but Semmens said she assumes Congress won’t eliminate the program.

“Never before has SNAP experienced such across-the-board cuts that would impact all participants — the working, the elderly, the disabled and even children,” Semmens said.

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