Food stamp benefits going down before the holidays - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Food stamp benefits going down before the holidays

Posted:
(Steven Bridges / for NBC News) (Steven Bridges / for NBC News)

Courtesy NBC News

Millions of American families could face a sparse holiday table when food stamps benefits get reduced in November, and that could be just the start of deeper cuts to the program to feed poor families.

The modern-day food stamp plan, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is scheduled to scale back benefits for all recipients on Nov. 1 because a recession-era boost in benefits is expiring.

The cut comes as lawmakers also are considering billions of dollars of reductions to the overall SNAP program, which has grown substantially in recent years amid the weak economy and high unemployment.

The program is now serving more than 23 million households, or nearly 48 million people, according to the most recent government data through June. The USDA says the average monthly benefit is about $275 per household.

The exact reduction depends on the recipients' situation, but a family of four with no other changes in circumstances will receive $36 less per month, according to the USDA. At today's average prices, that translates to four fewer whole chickens each month.

Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said that can be a major hit for a family that is already struggling with such low wages that they can't afford food on their own.

"For those of us who spend $1.70 a day on a latte this doesn't seem like a big change, but it does kind of really highlight that millions of families are living on an extremely modest food budget," she said.

Others are less worried about the immediate cuts. Parke Wilde, associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University, said that in real dollars, the cuts brings the program's aid levels back in line with where they were in the mid-2000s, before benefits were boosted as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

"That's neither great nor terrible," Wilde said.

He said the bigger issue is the debate in Congress over whether, and how much, the SNAP program could be cut in years to come. The House of Representatives passed a bill in mid-September that would eliminate about $39 billion form the SNAP budget over 10 years, while the Senate has approved a bill that makes much smaller cuts to the program.

The final decision could result in some recipients getting dropped from the program completely even as many are still recovering from the effect of the deep recession, he said.

"We have a very spare cash-based safety net and we rely a lot on food stamps to give people the resources they need to avoid hunger," Wilde said.

The SNAP program has become a last resort for people like Angela Phillips, 44, who never thought that she would have to accept food stamps.

Angela Phillips (Steven Bridges / for NBC News)

Phillips, who is divorced with three kids, worked for years as a paralegal and executive assistant, at one point making about $45,000 a year. Then the economy turned, and she suffered a string of job losses along with some health issues related to a shoulder injury from her time serving in the Army years ago.

Phillips, who lives in Knoxville, Tenn., said she juggled things as best she could for a long time, eating little while her kids were with their dad so she could feed them well when they were staying with her. Still, she said she struggled to explain why she couldn't always give them pricier, healthy foods like fresh fruit.

She ended up applying for SNAP benefits in July of 2012, while working part-time.

"It was a huge benefit for me to be able to know that I could feed my family," she said.

Phillips is currently working as a temporary administrative assistant for a national lab, but the employment is erratic and she says she makes about $17,000 a year. She's also a full-time student.

She recently had a long period of steady employment and was able to go off food stamps. That temporary position ended Friday and she doesn't know when she'll get another stable position. That means she'll be applying for food stamps again on Monday.

Phillips said she collected about $600 a month previously, and she doesn't yet know what her benefit will be this time, with the new reductions.

"I could make it work for a bit smaller benefit," she said. "If it was a lot different, then I would have a difficult time."

State agencies that administer the food stamp benefit say they are trying to get the word out about the benefit reduction.

Alexis Lambert, communications director for the Florida department of children and families, said they have hung flyers, added a notice to the website and put an announcement on their call center hold message.

In Kansas, Theresa Freed, director of communications for the state department for children and families, said the state agency has provided recipients with an estimate of what kind of reduction they will see. It also is notifying community partners that they could see an increase in demand for their services.

Some food banks also are preparing for the change. Eric Cooper, chief executive of the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas, said he estimates that a typical SNAP benefit is enough for a family to buy food for two-and-a-half to three weeks. With the reduction, he expects SNAP benefits to typically last for two to two-and-a-half weeks.

"It's going to place a lot more demand on us for kind of ‘food for today' type strategies," he said. "Our emergency food and the need for more assistance is going to be greater."

Allison Linn is a reporter at CNBC. Follow her on Twitter @allisondlinn or send her an e-mail.

Read on NBC News

  • Padre Island National Seashore Free Admission

    Padre Island National Seashore Free Admission

    If you are looking for something to do this Easter weekend you may want to head out to the Padre Island National Seashore.That's because this Easter weekend admission to the park is free. The offer not only coincides with Easter weekend but it also marks the beginning of National Park Week which began Saturday and lasts till the 27th of April.More >>
    If you are looking for something to do this Easter weekend you may want to head out to the Padre Island National Seashore.That's because this Easter weekend admission to the park is free. The offer not only coincides with Easter weekend but it also marks the beginning of National Park Week which began Saturday and lasts till the 27th of April.More >>
  • Early Morning Foot Pursuit For CCPD

    Early Morning Foot Pursuit For CCPD

    A Corpus Christi man is facing some serious charges after leading Corpus Christi police officers on a foot chase Sunday morning. The chase started at 1:15 Sunday morning at the 2000 block of Treyway, near Airline and Holly. Police say while the suspect fled from police, he allegedly tried to get rid of a gun and what is believed to be crack cocaine. Investigators were able to recover a handgun and the controlled substance. The man was then taken to the Corpus Christi Detention Center and...More >>
    A Corpus Christi man is facing some serious charges after leading Corpus Christi police officers on a foot chase Sunday morning. The chase started at 1:15 Sunday morning at the 2000 block of Treyway, near Airline and Holly. Police say while the suspect fled from police, he allegedly tried to get rid of a gun and what is believed to be crack cocaine. Investigators were able to recover a handgun and the controlled substance. The man was then taken to the Corpus Christi Detention Center and...More >>
  • Man Who Shot Cop in Fredericksburg In Jail After Chase

    Man Who Shot Cop in Fredericksburg In Jail After Chase

    Sunday, April 20 2014 11:16 AM EDT2014-04-20 15:16:29 GMT
    A suspect accused of shooting a Fredericksburg police officer is in custody in San Antonio after leading police on a chase spanning several counties.It started in Fredericksburg around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.According to the Fredericksburg Police Department, an officer was making a routine traffic stop when the 31-year-old Robert Adrian Rendon fired several shots at him from inside the car.The officer was hit twice, once in the stomach and once in the neck.He was able to radio for help and was ta...More >>
    A suspect accused of shooting a Fredericksburg police officer is in custody in San Antonio after leading police on a chase spanning several counties.It started in Fredericksburg around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.According to the Fredericksburg Police Department, an officer was making a routine traffic stop when the 31-year-old Robert Adrian Rendon fired several shots at him from inside the car.The officer was hit twice, once in the stomach and once in the neck.He was able to radio for help and was ta...More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KIII. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.