Food benefits decreasing


Starting tomorrow, food stamp recipients in New York will see a reduction in monthly benefits. In most cases, households will lose approximately $11 a month, says information provided by Volunteer Legal Services of Western New York.

The decrease is related to the 2009 federal stimulus, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The legislation included a boost in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps. But now that money is gone.

Volunteer Legal Services of Western New York is trying to draw attention to the decrease so that SNAP recipients aren't caught by surprise.

The cut may sound minor, but some local coordinators for low-income nutrition programs say that it'll have serious consequences for benefits recipients. The families are already trying to make the benefits go as far as they can, says Sue Segelman, nutrition education and outreach coordinator for Volunteer Legal Services of Western New York. In August, 120,332 people in 63,973 Monroe County households received SNAP benefits, says data from the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
"For most of the families we talk to, SNAP doesn't meet all of their food needs," Segelman says.

In many cases, SNAP recipients also rely on local food pantries, she says, which may see an increase in people seeking their assistance. 

But Segelman and food pantry coordinators anticipate further SNAP benefit cuts, too. Senate and House negotiators are working to reconcile farm bills that each house passed, both of which lay out funding for SNAP benefits. But each bill cuts SNAP funding. The House bill, drafted by the Republican majority, would cut the program by $40 billion over 10 years, while the Senate's proposal, put together by its Democratic majority, would cut $4 billion over 10 years.