Food stamp cutbacks taking a toll locally
By Joe Moskowitz
Government agencies call it SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Consumers use SNAP benefits by swiping their Electronic Benefits Transfer card to pay for purchases, much like using a debit or credit card.
To about 47 million Americans, those letters of the alphabet mean the difference between good nutrition and going hungry. But putting a meal on the table recently became more difficult for many people in America. On November 1, all SNAP benefits, the official name for food stamps, were reduced by five-and-one-half percent.
In April of 2009, the federal government, as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus program, increased SNAP benefits by 13 percent. The theory was that since SNAP benefits are spent on food, the money would be spent quickly and not saved and that would help stimulate the economy.
But last week, the government took back some of that increase. Sylvia Armanno, who is the Delaware County Deputy Commissioner of Social Services and director of the food stamps, Medicaid, and emergency cash assistance programs, says it is going to make things very difficult for many people who are already struggling. Armanno told the News that the majority of the people who get food stamps in Delaware County have jobs but they just don’t make enough money to feed their families without help.
In order to qualify for SNAP benefits, a single person must earn less than $1,295 per month. A family of four must have an income of less than $2,552 per month.
The maximum amount a family of four can receive in food stamps dropped from $668 to $632 per month, and the most a single person can get dropped from $200 to $189. A single person can get as little as $15. To some, the benefit reduction may not seem like a huge amount of money, but it can work out to an estimated day-and-a-half less in food assistance.
Armanno said many people in Delaware, one of New York’s poorest counties, will suffer, and she says negotiations on a new farm bill in Washington indicates there will be further reductions. She went on to say that the food stamp program is a good one and benefits should not be reduced but she added, “No one asked me.”
At the Community Food Pantry in Arkville, 15 families received food last Friday with four new families signing up for help.
The pantry was already in need of contributions and is now facing an increase in demand. Volunteer Glenna Herz put in bluntly, “We need people to donate more food and money.”