New Round of Food Stamp Cuts ProposedBy Regina Range
I rely on SNAP (the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” or food stamps) to feed me and my grandson who I am raising. With the expiration of the 2009 Recovery Act, in November, our food stamps will be automatically cut – a family of four will receive $36 a month less in food stamps. As applied to us, this cut means we will be short of food about 2-3 days per month. We will be trying to stretch the food we have on hand to finish the month.

This cut will affect the 47 million people nationally who now receive food stamps, including 22 million children. And keep in mind that most food stamps recipients are children, the elderly, and the disabled, who together make up almost three quarters of the total number of recipients. Over forty percent are women. Food stamp recipients belong to all ethnicities – and live all over the country, in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

Being able to prepare healthy meals on food stamps is always an issue. It’s already hard to find the necessary foods needed to be healthy: when you shop sometimes you have to go to the Dollar Tree and buy those prepared frozen foods which are all high in fat, sugar, salt, starch – garbage for the body. It is hard for me to understand how the government can make these judgments on cutting food for the people of the nation.

People who do not know how to budget their food stamps allotment have more problems than I suffer. I make frequent visits to the local food banks, and volunteer with organizations that may give me a chance to secure some food items. I do odd jobs so that when my allotment for the month has been exhausted, I and my grandson can still eat. But I know people who may only have a chance at purchasing one loaf of bread and one gallon of milk in a month, in addition to a little meat, or beans and potatoes, because they are single and receive only $200 a month. Once you purchase these items, there is not much left for healthy foods – you can barely get fruits and veggies.

More cuts to come to food stamps? What shall my people do? There are reports that the House of Representatives plans to double the original proposal, made last Spring, to cut $20 billion from food stamps over 10 years, which would have affected 2 million very low-income people. The new “stand alone” proposal – independent of the Farm Bill – would cut $40 billion over ten years, with 2-4 million more people seeing their benefits eliminated or reduced. The new proposal may make it to the House floor in September.

If the House proposal is passed as proposed, the new cuts would come primarily from eliminating “waivers”, that is, “opt out” provisions, that states could formerly use, and did use, during the current high unemployment, to ease a rule that limited SNAP benefits. This harsh rule restricted SNAP to three months of benefits out of every three years for people aged 18 to 50 who aren’t raising minor children and are unemployed (without a full or part-time job), regardless of how hard they are looking for work. (“Millionaires Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan Plan To Cut Off Food for 4 Million Americans,” by Jason Easley, Aug. 9th, 2013 PoliticusUSA. ) Now they want to put this three month limitation into effect, without allowing waivers of the rule based on high unemployment.

In other words, if you do not work, you will not eat: if you are unemployed, and childless, you will be eligible to receive food stamps for only three months, and then you will have to wait almost three years, even if there are no full or part-time jobs available to you because of the high unemployment rates that are becoming permanent. And the people who will be mostly affected are those whose average income is just about $210 per month.
One of the Congress members preparing the new bill, Eric Cantor, was frank about the disqualification of the unemployed. “If they are able bodied people who can work, they ought to do that in order to receive a public benefit. That’s the proposal we are bringing forward.” (See, “Millionaires,” above, Aug. 9th, 2013 PoliticusUSA )

The implementation of this rule would have an overwhelming impact on my adult children, my neighbors, other friends and family who are not working because they can’t find jobs. No one is saying where these new jobs would come from: the economy is generating only 150,000-200,000 new jobs a month – about enough to keep up with population growth. Anyway, these aren’t necessarily jobs you can just walk off the street and get, especially if you are young, unskilled, or have some disability, some other strike against you.

I refuse to accept the idea that I have no worth to society if I can’t find a decent job. I refuse to accept the idea that our nation, as a community, has no responsibility to take care of the millions of people who live in poverty. I refuse to accept the idea that we can be written off as full members of this society.

This is why more education on this issue is being done by me. I’m trying to get the word to the streets through my words in the Homeless Street Journal, in the hope it wakes my people up so that we can begin to do something about this before it’s too late.