Daily Meme: Congress Hits America's Poorest While They're Down

  • Starting today, millions of Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—better known as food stamps—will see their benefits drop now that the temporary increase instituted by the Obama administration's stimulus package has not been renewed. 
  • That means the extra $45.2 billion appropriated by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have now evaporated from the budget.
  • The cut will affect 47 million Americans, half of whom are children under 18. That's nearly 15 percent of the population.
  • The farm bill currently ricocheting between the House and Senate would cut benefits even more, possibly as much as a $4 billion annual drop in funding. 
  • Food stamps have become an increasingly important benefit for our nation's poorest families. Since 2008, enrollment has grown by 70 percent. 
  • Businesses in impoverished communities increasingly rely on SNAP customers for profits—economists estimated that the growth rate on our gross domestic product could shrink by 0.1 percentage points because of the cuts.
  • Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Wal-Mart will likely be the retailers who notice the drop in spending the most. 
  • The cuts will range from $11 to $36 per month.
  • Even before the cuts, the benefits provided by SNAP were hardly enough to keep many families afloat. But, the program was exceptionally helpful—and worked pretty well—as it was.
  • Charities across the country are bracing for a sudden increase in demand at food banks and other SNAP alternatives.
  • But, charities can't fill in a billion dollar hole. As the president of the New York City Food Bank said in September, “Don’t romanticize charity, we can’t make up for these cuts. No one is more afraid of these cuts than charity, because we cannot cover it.”
  • And, to make matter worse, the food-stamp program's massive haircut has happenedalmost silently on the national stage, with little media coverage or political protestations to stop SNAP's slimdown.
  • Local news outlets have been more attentive. In the D.C. area, more than 144,000—one in four—residents will be affected by the cuts. About 250,000 Utahns will have less money to spend on food every month.
  • Nearly 1 million military vets use food stamps and will see cuts. About the same number of people will be affected in Missouri and Kansas. More than four million people will see cuts to their benefits in California. 
  • In Texas, where 1.4 million families rely on food stamps, one retired teacher responded to the news by saying, “Oh my gosh, I don't know what I'm going to do ... I can't believe they would do this to people."
  • Ohio will lose about $193 million annually in food-stamp funding.
  • Joel Berg, at the New York Coalition Against Hunger, says, “The idea that people can make up for this by shopping differently just isn’t realistic. They can’t and they won’t.They’ll go hungry and have less food.” Nearly two million New Yorkers use food stamps.

 

Comments

I'm a left-of-center American, and appalled by the lack of consideration most have for the poorest citizens in this country. But on the food stamp issue, I'm really perplexed. How can it be that the numbers of Americans and the total spending on food stamps continue to rise, even as unemployment drops? I understand that some have been shut out of the economic recovery, but overall, the economic conditions in this country are much better than they were in 2009 and unemployment is significantly lower. It would be helpful if articles on this subject could lay out the dynamics behind this issue in a way that makes it possible to understand. Have eligibility requirements eased? If not, what is behind the increased spending? I'm not a proponent of cuts to the needy, but I can understand why those who want to reduce government spending have picked this particular program.

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