Pay Cut May Be Coming For Food Stamp Users - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Pay Cut May Be Coming For Food Stamp Users

Posted: Updated:

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.

People who 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 Great Recession.

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.

The 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.

Nevertheless, experts say the effect could be quite significant for poor individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet.

"Families being able to afford less food is fundamentally the impact," said Stacy Dean, co-author of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report.

The 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.

Experts 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 elevated.

"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.

"It's 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.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • PHOTOS: Hobo Spider season has arrived

    PHOTOS: Hobo Spider season has arrived

    Friday, August 29 2014 5:37 PM EDT2014-08-29 21:37:17 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Mid August is about the time that we start to see spiders come into our homes, particularly the hobo spider. August and September is mating season for the hobo and that means you may be seeing more funnel-like webs in and around your home. Males are on a mission to find a female which is why they are a lot more active at this time.>>
    KHQ.COM - Mid August is about the time that we start to see spiders come into our homes, particularly the hobo spider. August and September is mating season for the hobo and that means you may be seeing more funnel-like webs in and around your home. Males are on a mission to find a female which is why they are a lot more active at this time.
    >>
  • Man hospitalized after downtown dispute

    Man hospitalized after downtown dispute

    Sunday, August 31 2014 10:09 PM EDT2014-09-01 02:09:05 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - One man is in critical condition after a fight in downtown Spokane early Sunday morning, according to Spokane Police. Patrol officers found the man unresponsive at 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of Sprague and Stevens. Witnesses told police the injured man had walked out in front of a taxi and started a fight.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - One man is in critical condition after a fight in downtown Spokane early Sunday morning, according to Spokane Police. Patrol officers found the man unresponsive at 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of Sprague and Stevens. Witnesses told police the injured man had walked out in front of a taxi and started a fight.>>
  • 'Best Pig Out Yet'

    'Best Pig Out Yet'

    Sunday, August 31 2014 10:08 PM EDT2014-09-01 02:08:40 GMT

     

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Pig Out In The Park brings in thousands to delve into their favorite fair-like foods and put diets on the back burner. But this year is a little bit different, because organizers are calling it the largest pig out yet.

    >>
  • National NewsMore>>

  • UPDATE: Joan Rivers 'Resting Comfortably' at Mount Sinai in New York

    UPDATE: Joan Rivers 'Resting Comfortably' at Mount Sinai in New York

    Friday, August 29 2014 12:45 AM EDT2014-08-29 04:45:02 GMT
    NEW YORK (AP) - Comedian Joan Rivers is in a New York City hospital, according to police and hospital officials who say she was rushed there from a doctor's office after going into cardiac arrest.Rivers' daughter later issued a statement about her mother's condition.>>
    NEW YORK (AP) - Comedian Joan Rivers is in a New York City hospital, according to police and hospital officials who say she was rushed there from a doctor's office after going into cardiac arrest.Rivers' daughter later issued a statement about her mother's condition.
    >>
  • VA: No proof delays in veteran care caused hospital deaths

    VA: No proof delays in veteran care caused hospital deaths

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 9:11 PM EDT2014-08-27 01:11:37 GMT
    KHQ.COM- The Department of Veterans Affairs says there's no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at the VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz.Revelations that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care rocked the agency this past spring, bringing to light scheduling problems and allegations of misconduct at other hospitals as well.NBC News obtained a draft report from the VA's Office of Inspector General Tuesday. The draft report says while investigators found substantial delays in care an...>>
    KHQ.COM- The Department of Veterans Affairs says there's no proof that delays in care caused any deaths at the VA hospital in Phoenix, Ariz.Revelations that as many as 40 veterans died while awaiting care rocked the agency this past spring, bringing to light scheduling problems and allegations of misconduct at other hospitals as well.NBC News obtained a draft report from the VA's Office of Inspector General Tuesday. The draft report says while investigators found substantial delays in care an...>>
  • UPDATE: Sergeant who shot herself at Fort Lee dies

    UPDATE: Sergeant who shot herself at Fort Lee dies

    Monday, August 25 2014 6:58 PM EDT2014-08-25 22:58:27 GMT
    Police officer patrols the entrance of Fort Lee in VirginiaPolice officer patrols the entrance of Fort Lee in Virginia
    FORT LEE, Va. (AP) - A commanding general at a Virginia Army base says an enraged soldier with a gun barricaded herself in an office, then shot herself in the head as officials tried to negotiate with her.>>
    FORT LEE, Va. (AP) - A commanding general at a Virginia Army base says an enraged soldier with a gun barricaded herself in an office, then shot herself in the head as officials tried to negotiate with her. Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lyons says the soldier went on a rampage, throwing objects. >>