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Federal food aid benefits to shrink starting Friday

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More than 925,000 Hoosiers who accept government assistance to purchase food will receive fewer benefits starting Friday when a program enacted during the economic downturn expires.

The cuts will mean $36 less in monthly benefits for a family of four or about $11 less for a single person who qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which used to be known as food stamps.

Emily Weikert Bryant, executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, said $36 “means several days’ worth of food for a struggling family.”

“Clients already have a difficult time putting enough food on their tables and paying their bills even with SNAP benefits,” she said.

The increased benefits went into effect in 2009 when Congress passed the Recovery Act, a collection of programs meant to boost the American economy. But the increase was never meant to be permanent.

SNAP is funded by the federal government but administered by the state. Officials at the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration say they’ve been warning recipients about the upcoming drop in aid.

“We have been sending notifications by mail for about a month” said Marni Lemons, a spokeswoman for FSSA. “We are always prepared to receive calls from people who need assistance and any calls that come in about the reduction in SNAP aid will be well handled.”

Federal food-stamp spending reached a record $78.4 billion in fiscal 2012 amid a 77-percent increase in annual average food-stamp enrollment since 2007. Monthly food-stamp enrollment peaked in December at 47.8 million and was 47.6 million in July, the most recent month for which data was available.

Overall, the federal government will send about $98 million less to Indiana for SNAP through September 2014 than if the stimulus program had been extended. About 14 percent of Hoosiers will be affected.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C., about 436,000 children in Indiana will be affected by the cuts. Another 164,000 Hoosiers who are elderly or disabled will be affected.

For a family of three, the cut equals about 16 meals a month, according to the center. That’s based on costs outlined in the U.S. Agriculture Department’s “Thrifty Food Plan.”

The reduced payments will average less than $1.40 per person per meal.

“The depth and breadth of the SNAP cuts that take effect in November are unprecedented,” says a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Past cuts have affected specific states or groups, but they have not affected all participants nor been as large as these cuts.”

The cuts come as a House-Senate conference committee begins work on a farm bill that could mean even more cuts for the SNAP program. Republicans in the House have proposed cutting benefits by $40 billion over 10 years. Democrats want a cut of $4 billion.

Area food banks expect to see an increase in need once the cuts take effect.

“We hope that Hoosiers statewide will also come to the aid of our friends, neighbors, and family that will be impacted by the loss of food assistance in November by donating food, funds, or time to regional food banks or local pantries to ensure that more food is available to those in need,” said Bryant.

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  • The irony of blaming the consumer
    If everything the people who want to cut food stamps say about those that use them are right, then you mind as well close up the food pantries. After all, it's just well-to-do folks that go to them to get free food. Why do churches give out free food if people aren't needy?
  • Soooo...
    We should stop feeding kids and the elderly because of your out-of-context (and probably exaggerated for effect) anecdote? Wise policy making, right there.
  • This very morning
    This morning I was inside the gas station as the card reader was busted for the pump. It was 9am and a mom with 2 small kids was in there, not sure what time school starts, but they were getting "breakfast" and "lunch". Breakfast was two energy drinks, the kids split one, some Cheetos, and a three donuts. Lunch was lunchable style things and pops, and of course a snack think (think it was a ho-ho, but not sure). All paid for with EBT card. And then she bought her smokes with cash. Money well spent.
  • Finally
    Our government just spent half a trillion dollars on military aircraft that went straight to the "boneyard" in Tucson. We have the money to feed our children and elderly.
  • As for food education
    Even in Indianapolis, there are parts where it requires a car to get to a grocery store. The closest food source for some is a convenience store, gas station, or fast food. Before you lecture people on their food choices, make sure there really is a choice.
  • Just FYI
    76% of SNAP households contain minor, elderly, or disabled people with househould incomes at or below the poverty line ($19,000 for a family of three). So enough with the empathy-challenged fantasies about lobster-buying "gamers" who don't need the assistance. Especially if your Mommy and Daddy funded your college education.
  • Food Education
    The reduction in funding can be partially off set by reducing the consumption of processed foods ( pizza rolls, flavored drink, high carbs, etc which are per serving very costly ) and to a greater extent utilized fresh vegetables , fruits , legumes and meats. I encourage Ms Lemons to communicate to her clients the cost and nutrition benefits of these alternatives. And in a sense make lemonade out of lemons.
    • It'll be Okay
      There will always be people who need help, like SNAP, but it's being "gamed" like every other government welfare program. You show me a government program and I'll show you somebody who can tell you exactly what you need to do to get in on it, even if you're not entitled to it and are not one of the people it is supposed to help. I learned a lot from hanging around Title IV D Court doing free legal work for indigent clients many years ago. Nothing's changed -- it's just a bigger target for scams than it was back then.
    • Sympathy?
      I find it hard to sympathize here, since I remember when I was in college, courtesy of my parents paying all of my expenses, that I was approached and offered food stamps. What??? I was told that because my parents had no visible means of support (retired, didn't need the money, but they'd worked hard their entire lives), I would qualify. No, thanks... I can't help but wonder how many people are on food-assistance plans who don't really need to be.
    • I Can Eat VERY well on my $36 a week.
      Sorry but I am not too sympathetic, At one time for a short period of time I received benefits, but I was SO happy to not reapply, too much headache. I use coupons, shop wisely and can eat VERY well on $36 dollars a week-what's the problem? The govt can do some but just can't do this as the level in the past! Oh, and I have a college aged daughter who comes home sometimes and has never missed a meal!
    • SERIOUSLY?
      The people who do receive food stamps get too many of them. Many people end up selling what they don't use to other people who don't receive them. Everyone who is getting help will be fine they just won't be able to turn a profit on them anymore. Which never should have been happening in the first place.
    • Please read again
      Donna, I can see how this could be confusing if you read it quickly, but it says the payments average less than $1.40 per meal, not the reductions.
    • WHO DID THE MATH??
      "The reduced payments will average less than $1.40 per person per meal." Since the current reductions at the highest possible rate will be $11/month for a single person - if that amount is divided by 30 days, that's 36 cents/day or 12 cents/meal - NOT $1.40/meal!!! How on earth did such a statement make it through the editors and remain in this article??? Or was the statement meant to incite a riot for those who don't bother to do any research??

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