AUSTIN – The month of November has arrived in Texas, and along with it, an automatic reduction in funding for many families in the state who struggle to put food on the table.
During the recession, there was a temporary increase in SNAP or food stamp benefits, but Celia Cole, chief executive officer of the Texas Food Bank Network, declared that that is now officially over. In fiscal 2012, the average food-stamp benefit per person was about $133 per month, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A temporary, $5-billion-per-year boost in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has expired. The Obama administration had added the extra funds in the 2009 stimulus act as food stamp rolls swelled to record numbers during the severe recession. Roughly one in seven Americans are now enrolled in SNAP, and the cuts will reduce food-stamp benefits by 13.6 percent, or about $36 less per month for a family of four, according to the Department of Agriculture.
“This is the result of the phasing out of a boost in benefits that occurred as part of the Economic Recovery Act that was passed in 2009, and every family in Texas and across the nation is going to see, on average, a $25 cut to their benefits and on November 1.”
The reductions come at the same time Congress is considering cuts to SNAP as part of a new Farm Bill. The Senate has proposed $4 billion in cuts, while the House wants to slash the program by up to $40 billion over ten years. Cole said that would be devastating.
“We’re talking about families with kids, children and seniors, people with disabilities who are going to be effected by these cuts,” she said. “And it comes at possibly the worst time for low-income Americans, as they struggle to get back on their feet after one of the greatest economic downturns in our history.”
About 4 million Texans rely on SNAP benefits to help keep groceries in the cupboard, and the state also has the second-highest number of food-insecure households in the nation.