NBCNEWS.COM - The approximately 47 million Americans who rely on the modern food
stamp program could see their monthly assistance cut this year because a
recession-era benefits boost is set to expire.
receive food assistance -- now known as the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program, or SNAP -- got a raise starting in April 2009 as
part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The increase in
benefits, which amounted to about $80 more a month for a family of four,
was part of a massive effort to help mitigate the worst effects of the
The temporary boost is set to expire on Oct. 31. If Congress doesn't pass legislation to extend it, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a family of four could see their benefits cut by about $25 a month. Smaller households would see smaller cuts.
The maximum allotment for a family of four is currently $668, but benefits levels can vary greatly. The average monthly benefit in November was $135.72 per person, or $281.21 per household, according to the Department of Agriculture.
cut would be less than the original increase because the new rates
would be set based on current food prices, which have gone up in the
past few years due to inflation. The exact rate change would be clear
until this summer, when new benchmarks are set.
experts say the effect could be quite significant for poor individuals
and families who are struggling to make ends meet.
being able to afford less food is fundamentally the impact," said Stacy
Dean, co-author of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report.
use of the SNAP program has increased substantially in recent years, as
the country has struggled with a weak and uneven economic recovery.
About 46.6 million people used the program in 2012, up from about 26.3 million in 2007, according to the Department of Agriculture.
say one problem is that many poor Americans are still feeling the
brutal effects of the Great Recession. The recession officially ended in
mid-2009, but the recovery remains weak and unemployment remains
"The recovery isn't playing out the same way for folks at the lower income on the income scale," Dean said.
Most people who receive SNAP benefits are in dire financial
circumstances. A report released earlier this year by the Carsey
Institute, which does research on vulnerable families, found that the median annual household income for SNAP users was $18,014 in 2011, substantially lower than the nation's median household income of $50,502 that year.
Experts say the program is one of the few places families and individuals can turn to for quick help meeting basic needs.
the largest social safety net program that is like cash," said Craig
Gundersen, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at the
University of Illinois.
Proponents also argue that it's a
successful program because it helps people meet a basic need. SNAP
benefits can only be used for food items, and the Department of
Agriculture said nearly all benefits are used at supermarkets or
farmer's markets within 30 days.
Gundersen said that he would
like it if SNAP benefits were even higher. Nevertheless, he argued that
the program would continue to be a key way to help poor Americans even
if the benefits are scaled back.
"If you cut back on benefits, that's going to hurt people, but it's still going to be successful," he said.
Thursday, May 23 2013 5:12 PM EDT2013-05-23 21:12:15 GMT
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Courtesy: MGN Graphics
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