Today the 2009 Recovery Act's temporary boost in SNAP (food stamp) benefits expires. This will translate into a benefit cut for each of the 424,000 SNAP recipients in Connecticut.
The change will cut SNAP benefits an average of $36 for a household of four. A household of three, such a mother with two children, will lose $29, or a total of $319 a year. The cut is equivalent to 16 meals a month for a family of three, based on the cost of the US Department of Agriculture "Thrifty Food Plan". 87% of SNAP recipients live in households with children, seniors or people with disabilities. These cuts directly affect the most vulnerable.
The cuts have a direct economic impact. According to a Center for Budget and Policy Priorities study, Connecticut will receive $44 million less a year in public benefits. The cuts will decrease the disposable income of many families, creating a ripple effect on local retailers and businesses. The Congressional Budget Office has long ranked SNAP as one of the most effective fiscal stimulus programs: the money goes to families in need that spent the money right away. Pulling these money out of the economy will also hurt the economy as a whole, not just its recipients.
Congress is working on the long delayed farm bill, with House and Senate delegations trying to reach an agreement in a conference committee. The House proposal includes more than $40 billion in cuts; the Senate $4 Billion. As part of our work with the New England Consortium CAHS is advocating to the New England delegation to stop these cuts.
SNAP is a crucial part of this country's safety net. We can not afford any more cuts.
As the House begins drafting a multi-year farm bill, it is worth taking a moment to dispel the myths that make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps, an easy target for cuts. Who are these people, you ask? Are they the same people my neighbor swears drive luxury cars to the grocery store on their way back from getting their nails done? Are they able-bodied adults who would rather live off the system than work? Not quite, though this paints a convenient picture for those who want to make cuts to the program and not lose sleep over it.
Of the just over 10% of CT residents who receive SNAP benefits, only slightly more than 6% of them were able-bodied adults living in non-elderly, non-disabled, childless households. I don’t have the exact number of that sub-set who own a BMW or have had a recent manicure, but I can tell you they are not the ones you need to worry about. Let us instead focus our efforts on worrying about those who want to feed their families and can’t, no matter how hard they try.
My morning route from home in suburbia to work brings me past a local food pantry and reminds me every Thursday, when they open and people spill out their doors with grocery bags of food they hope will last them the week, why the work I’m driving to is important. We should all remind ourselves, and more often than just Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m., that as someone on Capitol hill draws a red line through these benefits, people are struggling to make do with what is already too little.
Last Thursday, as I was stopped at the stop sign by that food pantry, I saw two women looking through the bags of food they had come away with, and one handed the other a box of pasta from her bag. I could not read her lips, but imagine she was giving up something she needed to someone who may have needed it even more. If Members of Congress could find some way to give up the things they want for the things the country needs, maybe we would all be better off.
Stay tuned to see if this version will bring us back to last year, when leaders drafted a five-year plan for the super-committee that wasn’t, with $23 billion in spending cuts, or if the case can be made to cut from elsewhere and continue providing this necessary benefit to those who need it most.