Beginning tomorrow, 251,000 Maine people, 94,000 of them children, will see their food assistance benefits cut, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires.
All of the more than 47 million Americans who receive SNAP will see their food assistance reduced when a modest boost in benefits to SNAP recipients, included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to strengthen the economy and ease hardship, ends. For a family of three, that cut will amount to $29 a month. That’s a serious loss given SNAP’s already low benefit levels and the very low incomes of SNAP participants — over 80 percent of SNAP households live in poverty.
In Maine, the benefit cut through October 2014 will total $26 million, slowing economic growth by reducing overall consumption. Nationally, the cut will total roughly $5 billion in federal fiscal year 2014 and an additional $6 billion across fiscal years 2015 and 2016. These cuts will most certainly result in more households seeking help from Maine’s emergency food network which is already strained.
On top of these already scheduled across-the-board cuts, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation cutting $40 billion from SNAP, potentially eliminating assistance for nearly 4 million people nationwide. The House-passed SNAP plan coupled with the November 1 cuts would deal a significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet.
- The House Republican proposal would cut assistance for at least 4 million low-income people, including some of the poorest Americans, many children and seniors and even veterans.
- The proposed cuts would hit some of the nation’s poorest children in families where parents are out of work and terminate assistance for many low-income working families where high child care and housing costs make it difficult to afford food.
- The cuts would greatly harm families still struggling to find work and those that depend on low-wage jobs as the economy continues to recover. Almost 12 million Americans remain out of work — 4 million of whom have been searching for work for more than six months. Another 8 million are involuntarily working part-time. All told, some 22 million people are unemployed or underemployed. These families rely on this basic food assistance to keep their children fed, and SNAP is a vital stepping stone as they get back on their feet.
- Maine continues to struggle with hunger; we cannot afford deep cuts to SNAP at a time when many Mainers are unable to find work or to make ends meet in jobs with very low wages.
- 15% of Maine households, or more than 200,000 Mainers, are food insecure.
- The number of Mainers who are food insecure has increased significantly in recent years.
- Maine ranks 3rd in the nation (1st in New England) for very low food security (hunger). (Source: USDA 2012 data)
As the recovery from this historic recession continues, SNAP is a vital tool in empowering struggling Americans to put food on their tables as they seek new employment, send their children off to school, and get themselves back on their feet. Yet House leadership appears determined to threaten the recovery and literally take food from millions of Americans – including children, seniors, families, and even struggling veterans – with harmful cuts to SNAP.
Let Maine’s congressional leaders know that Maine children can’t afford further cuts to SNAP.