On top of shutdown, food stamp stimulus ending
A temporary increase in food stamps expires Oct. 31, meaning for millions of Americans, the benefits that help put food on the table won’t stretch as far as they have for the past four years.
Food stamps – actually the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – go to 47 million Americans a month, almost half of them children and teenagers.
Starting in 2009, the federal stimulus pumped $45.2 billion into SNAP, increasing what would have been a monthly benefit of $588 a month to $668 for an average household of four. In November, that same family will start getting $632 a month, about a 5 percent cut.
The benefits, which go to 1 in 7 Americans, fluctuate based on factors including food prices, inflation and income.
Families and providers worry the expiration of the stimulus bump comes at a particularly bad time:
– Though Census figures from September show poverty remains stuck at around 22 percent, in some states, including New Hampshire, the number of children living in poverty is climbing.
– The House voted to cut almost $4 billion a year from the roughly $80 billion-a-year program in an effort to find savings in the budget. A Senate bill would cut around $400 million a year.
– In cold weather states, even a slight decrease in the benefit can trigger a decision between heating and eating. Heating fuel prices are expected to increase this year too, the government warned this week.
And the program could face another shortfall if the government is shuttered past Nov. 1.
But the stimulus was never intended to be a permanent source of money, said former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg. He opposed the stimulus, calling it at the time “a great deal of money not well spent.”
John Cochrane, a professor of finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, also opposed the stimulus, saying it advanced the false assumption that “completely wasted federal spending helps the economy.”
He said that worries about people who need help were a legitimate concern but that food stamps create a disincentive to move to find a better job because recipients are worried they’ll lose the benefit.
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