Food stamp funds getting cut tomorrow – here’s what to expect
If you’re someone who relies on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to eat, things are about to get ugly. The federal government is cutting $5 billion from the program this week, and, if some people in Washington have their way, there will be more where that came from.
The $80 billion yearly program provides aid to 14 percent of all U.S. households — about 47 million people nationwide. This number has risen dramatically since the economic crash of 2008, and, because of that, the program was temporarily expanded as part of the stimulus package of 2009.
That temporary expansion will end on Nov. 1, affecting hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians. Here are a few things you should know:
What are cuts based upon?
There are about 470,000 people on food stamps in Philadelphia, and they’re all set to feel the pain. The larger your family, the more money being cut from your benefits package. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, benefits will shrink an average of 5 percent across the board. That’ll be $11 cut for households of one, $20 for households of two, $29 for households of three, $36 for households of four. As noted by the Greater Philadelphia Hunger Coalition, that $36 decrease works out to the equivalent of 21 meals a week, and $432 per year.
What can be done to stop it?
Nothing. Usually there’s a sense of hope that goes along with these sorts of things. Call your congressman! Vote for such and such! Tweet for change! Not this time. These cuts have been a super-long time coming. Congress passed legislation in 2010 to end the SNAP expansion in April 2014 and redirect the savings to things like Medicaid and education. Then they passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Act, moving that date up to tomorrow.
But this is the worst of it, right?
Probably not. Congress has to pass a farm bill before the end of the year, and as Congress is, well, Congress, things are not going well.
The farm bill isn’t just about tractors and pigs. It also deals with potential changes to SNAP. A Republican-controlled House version of the bill would cut $40 billion more from the assistance program over the next ten years (though President Obama has vowed to veto that), and a Democratic-controlled Senate bill would cut $4.5 billion. Either way, there will be cuts. And they will hurt.
So, what can you do about food?
Luckily, there are charitable organizations throughout the Philadelphia area that can help you out with just this issue. There are an estimated 700 food pantries in Philadelphia, according to the Hunger Coalition, where people in need can go to get bags of groceries. To qualify for food pantry assistance, your yearly income may have to be below a certain amount, often 150 percent of the federal poverty limit. Here’s a map of food pantries throughout the Philadelphia area.
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