Federal benefit cuts take food off poor tables
For Durham resident Clifton Ryan, the reduction in food stamp benefits that took effect Friday will mean less food on the table.
“I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is,” Ryan said.
The reduction to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, comes as a temporary federal increase in those benefits ends.
The increase was part of the federal stimulus package, or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Federal leaders passed the act in response to the economic recession. It included provisions for tax cuts, spending on infrastructure projects and for the expansion of programs like SNAP.
For a family of four receiving the maximum benefit of $632, the rollback that took effect Friday meant a cut of $36. For a single person receiving the maximum benefit of $200, it was an $11 cut.
The amount that a person receives in food stamp benefits depends on factors such as household size, income and other assistance.
Michael Becketts, director of the Durham County Department of Social Services, said in an email that the program benefits more than 44,000 people in Durham County. He said the reduction could be as little as $1, depending on the amount of benefits a person receives.
“This benefit cut will significantly affect low-income families who continue struggling to recover from the Great Recession, and policymakers should keep that in mind as they consider further cuts to SNAP,” said Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy for the Washington D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a statement.
Dean said that both the U.S. House and Senate have passed legislation to further cut the program, and a conference committee is working on a final bill. The Senate bill would cut the program by $4 billion across 10 years, while the House bill would cut it by nearly $40 billion in the same timeframe, Dean said.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st, who represents part of Durham County along with three other congressional leaders, said in a statement that Friday was a “sad day for many low-income families in North Carolina and across the country that struggle daily to put food in their tables.”
“Even more disturbing is that my House Republican colleagues knew this reduction was coming, but have persisted in their war on the poor by pushing for even deeper cuts to SNAP,” he said the statement. “Now is not the time to cut a program that helps the most vulnerable in our country feed their families and get back on their feet.”
U.S. Rep. George Holding, R-13th, who also represents part of Durham County, said in a statement that he supported the House bill because it “makes common-sense reforms, closes program loopholes, and cracks down on waste, fraud and abuse.”
“It does this in the right way, not by taking calories off the plates of the deserving, but by making reforms to program eligibility such as restoring the time limit for able-bodied, childless adults to continue receiving food stamps,” he said. “This bill not only restores the integrity of this safety-net program, it will help beneficiaries become more self-sufficient. These reforms will also generate at least $40 billion in savings for taxpayers over the next 10 years.”
Attempts to reach U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, R-6th, and U.S. Rep. David Price, D-4th, were unsuccessful Friday. Both Coble and Price also represent parts of Durham County in the U.S. House of Representatives.