Food stamp cuts could cost you $90 a month

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WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — A deal on food stamps in Congress could trim as much as $90 a month from 850,000 of the nation’s poorest who seek help to buy groceries.

The measure is part of the latest farm bill and aims to cut about $9 billion from food stamps over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Research Service.

It’s less than the $39 billion that Republicans had wanted to cut from the program; but double what Democrats had suggested.

Lawmakers characterize the deal as getting rid of a “loophole” that has helped 17 states dole out more generous food stamps to some people who also get as little as $1 dollar in federal help to heat or cool their homes. They also stress the move won’t cut families from food stamps, it will just shrink the amount.

Advocates for the poor are irate. The newly-proposed reductions come just months after the $11 cut from food stamp checks that went into effect on Nov. 1, when the recession-era boost in funding ended.

Since then, food pantries have reported larger crowds, as families exhaust their allotment before the month ends.

“They’re calling it a loophole, but it’s taking away real money from real families,” said Joel Berg, executive director, of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, an advocacy group. “It seems like they’re just thinking: We must pass a farm bill at all costs, even if the cost is throwing 800,000 under bus.”

The food stamp changes are part of a larger farm bill that remains stalled in Congress over a separate measure to stabilize dairy prices that has irritated House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans.

The goal is to get it passed before the spring crop planting season, because farmers need to know what to expect for their corn, wheat or tobacco yields. The bill would end direct payments to farmers for planting crops and replace it with a revamped crop insurance program.

The food stamps program is fully funded for the next two years by the most recent budget deal. Delaying the farm bill won’t jeopardize recipients from getting benefits. However, the bill would result in less funding in coming years.

Currently, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the official name for food stamps, feeds 47 million people.

Food stamps was the signature program of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty during the 1960s, when it was revamped. Since then, research has shown that fewer poor children went hungry or had nutrition-related developmental delays. Also, birth weights grew for children of poor mothers on food stamps, according to National Bureau of Economic Research report.

Enrollment in the program soared during the Great Recession, with nearly 15% of the population getting benefits, according to recent federal data. The average monthly benefit was $134 per person in October.

Congress plans to change the formula state officials use to calculate food stamp benefits, essentially ending something called a “heat and eat” maneuver, which families encounter when they go to automatically enroll in food stamps and federal energy help. The move essentially ended up paying some families more than they would have otherwise gotten.

Under the new farm bill, nothing changes for families who get more than $20 a year in federal heating assistance. Congressional aides say the new changes end an unfair maneuver by states to inflate benefits for the poor families claiming heating bills they don’t have. Aides say the changes will help strengthen the food stamps program and protect it from further cuts in the future.

The new farm bill would affect families that get food stamps in 17 states, including 300,000 families in New York, according to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office.

At this point, the food stamps deal appears to have support of key lawmakers, including agriculture chief Sen. Debbie Stabenow and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer.

“I don’t like the fact we went further on the cuts, but that’s over 10 years,” Hoyer said on C-Span on Sunday. “It’s not as bad as it could have been and much better than I would have expected.”

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  • Kim

    It’s getting where those on food stamps cannot make ends meet AT ALL! It’s not necessarily always a handOUT but rather, a hand up especially since the job force has taken a hard nosedive and not a lot of businesses are hiring or if they DO hire, they want to give out very little hours. I understand that there are some who take advantage of food stamps rather than work but there are also people who cannot work due to illness, long term disability, etc. The government could really care less about other Americans as long as it benefits them in the long run!

    • Mike Graham

      You realize, they are looking out for those of us who not only pay taxes, but also pay for our food out of our paychecks. Why is it people believe they are taxpayers when they are receiving more back from the government than they pay into it?

  • Joe Thomas

    HOW DARE YOU! You have no problem with buying bullets with my tax dollars that could feed the very people you are sworn to protect and serve. This cut will overflow the food banks with requests for food, this, in turn will bankrupt the bank, Then the overflow will seek out the last line of defense against starvation and empty the soup kitchens. Having no where else to turn, crimes will rise and more people, AMERICAN CITIZENS will be both criminals and victims. I wasn’t asked what my tax dollars are to be spent on as congress doesn’t care about what I think. It seems clear to me that they don’t need anyone’s opinion but their own. It clearly show the American populace who congress has in mind if nothing else will. Not only are they giving food and dollars to other countries expecting the very people who pay for congress’ aid packages, their covert black ops, and the very people they spy upon; us and not to mention congress’ very salary and insurance but they will not help those in need right here. Isn’t it our children that man the wall and pushes the frontline to the enemy’s front door at all costs? How many deaths since Bush started his illegal war (backed by the very congress that is in session as I write this)? I’m sure they are sorry for your loss! Save $9 billion over the next 10 years but how many lives, American lives will be lost by this cut. In case you are not paying attention; there are 305 million Americans and there are no jobs to be had. How many middle-class Americans will be further sent to low-class status. How much more will the line between classes be clearly defined? HOW DARE YOU! And to those NOT sitting in congress who back this move HOW DARE YOU!! You support the very people who will change your very class status and wrap it up in a flag so you tell them to take more. You like hurting your very neighbor and have little humanity or concern for other humans in your town county, state or country. Buy a bullet in stead of a loaf of bread? Has our political machine so brain-washed our country-men that they even deprive each other of life and the essentials? HOW DARE YOU!!!

    • Mike Graham

      Do remember a time when people actually supported themselves without expecting the rest of us to pay for them?
      I’m hardly heartless but I can’t believe you are getting a near standing ovation for thinking we need to increase social spending in a country where social spending makes up more than half of our federal expenditures and our country is $17 trillion in debt. It doesn’t matter who created the debt now, the point is moot. We are reaching the point of no return with our debt. We can’t afford to continue to add to it.
      I’ve paid taxes every year for the last 33 years. I have probably another 20 or so to go. I have never once expected the government to provide any part of my upkeep. I don’t expect it ever will.
      I know I am in the minority here and will have it explained to me how I need to hang out on the Fox News forums or to quit letting the Koch brothers brainwash me, but I am a Democrat. There was a time when Democrats preached responsibility and social justice. Nowadays, our party preaches free money and phones for all. Its a shame that it is now more important to believe in, “What can my country do for me instead of what can I do for my country.”

  • Dianne M

    Thank you, Joe Thomas! Excellent, excellent presentation of the facts!!! I am completely disabled and only get $80.00 to survive on for the month from SNAP, yet have nothing left to add to that after paying bills. And before someone tries to get cute, or worse, rude, I had to fight for over 3 years to get my disability approved after being terminated because I could no longer do my job due to health reasons I had been battling for over 6 years. During that 6 years, I did my best to continue working full time, including trying 3 different jobs to reduce the physical demands placed on my body. So this was not a spur of the moment decision or a lack of trying on my part. Furthermore, I have no credit cards so there is no misuse of my funds. If I don’t have cash, I don’t buy it. Hense…I don’t buy it. I pay my mortgage, (for a home I have lived in for over 24 years) and my utilities. I pay my car insurance on a used car that was given to me so I can get back and forth to doctor appointments. I put gas in the car. I have to figure out a way to pay for upkeep on it as well. Old doctor bills go unpaid because I had no insurance and have nothing left over to pay them off. So don’t come at me about how some other country is suffering and needs our help when we don’t even look out for our own people first! When was the last time one of them sent our hungry children food, clothing, or medical supplies? When was the last time one of them helped the families of our men and women in service while our government held up their paychecks while trying to figure out how to balance a budget they put out of whack. It sickens me every time I hear the words “government grant” or see another foreigner open a business, buy a house, drive past me in a brand new car, or attend one of our colleges on OUR dollars. We funded the programs that are supposed to take care of us and yet those programs are exhausted by people who never put a dime into them and get cut because beaurocratic idiots think its more important to fund research for some program that has no direct link to the furthering the betterment of life as we know it. They need to take their hands out of our pockets, dig into their own, and stop trying to spy on our every move as if we are the villains of the world!!!!! The last time I checked, I was in no way a threat to national security or considered a terrorist. I do see them, however, as terrorizing us more and more every day!

  • Becky

    Priorities. Go Figure.
    Just look at the Democratic State Department’s Wealth and largesse
    and Foreign Favoritism: its ability to aid, abet, welfare, payroll, supply their military, train their military, pay for their military, pay bribes, payola, extortion, payrolls, and support Foreign anything; “rebels”, terrorist countries, known enemies, and entire countries.
    That budget is never cut, touched, is unlimited and unrestricted.
    Think the Priority would be the US; it our money!

  • Becky

    Obama has been promising/lying JOBS since 08, buying(?) jobs, that don’t exist, entire raid on the US Treasury by the Energy Department scam for green jobs, Infrastructure, shovel ready, etc. Since 08, Poverty has increased, food stamps, housing, entitlement spending, all increased with the increase in help and assistance,
    Where are we comparatively since 08’s Hope & Change?
    Is everybody “feeling”, prosperous, upwardly mobile and
    going Forward?

  • Don

    I’m for food stamps for those in need . For the ones who lie saying things like separate from my husband. knowing he lives with you and working full time . and you get food stamp’s that you don’t need that some one could use.

  • Walter Chapman

    We can only hope they are cutting in the right areas. Theres such a disconnect some times that you have to wonder.

    We really need good gov. assisted job training programs. There are very few programs that really help anyone other than writing a resume or doing a interview. They need real training in occupation fields and in many instances, they have no where to go.

    Schools has strict requirements on entrance test and if those test arent passed, you have to take remedial classes. If you have to take remedial classes, you cant get gov. assisted grants for them. (In most instances that Im aware of) Thats wrong because not many of the poor can afford to pay $500 or so out of pocket to go to technical school. Make it easier for people to go back to school.

    Improved bus routes and other transportation means have to be taken into consideration as well. I hear all the time if people cant find work, they should move. It takes money to move.

    Smart funding wheres it needed is sensible. Those that are fortunate to still be doing well have to look at the bigger picture. More of our tax dollars need to go where its benefitial to our citizens, not taken over seas or unaccounted for.

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