Starting November 1, SNAP benefits (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) will be cut for every household, at approximately $10 per person per month.
These cuts are because of the expiration of the temporary boost to SNAP in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In addition, the state of Ohio rejected an extension of the work requirement waiver for "able-bodied adults without dependents" limiting recipients in this category to receiving benefits only 3 months out of every 36 month period, unless he or she is able to secure employment for 80 hours per month. This went into effect October 1, meaning that as many as 29,000 Cuyahoga county residents could lose SNAP benefits completely on January 1, 2014.
This will present an additional challenge to the Cleveland Foodbank and hundreds of other local hunger relief organizations. These cuts will cause an influx of clients at food pantries and hot meal programs throughout the community, since thousands of people will have their benefits cut or will no longer be eligible for SNAP benefits. In 2012, almost half of Cuyahoga County households receiving SNAP benefits (44.9%) contained children under 18. Last year, the Cleveland Foodbank made possible 40 million meals. These numbers are expected to increase as the need continues to rise.
"These cuts to the SNAP program come at a critical time as we head into the holidays," said Anne Goodman, president & CEO, Cleveland Foodbank. "SNAP benefits typically help clients the first three weeks of the month, which will be right around Thanksgiving, and then they turn to local food pantries and hot meal programs. We are anticipating an increase during this time and we want to make sure everyone in our community has a meal this holiday."
The Farm Bill, which authorizes SNAP Benefits, could bring even more significant cuts to the program. The Senate version proposes $4 billion in cuts, and the House version $39 billion. A conference committee has been appointed to resolve these differences, but even in the best case there will be millions of Americans affected.
"The pantries and hot meal programs in the Cleveland Foodbank's service area have seen a significant increase in the number of people in need since before the recession," says Goodman. "Last year, together we made possible 40 million meals. It wasn't nearly enough. "
SNAP provides low-income families modest monthly assistance to help them put food on the table. The amount of the benefit depends on family size and income. Families must make less than 130% of the federal poverty level which is about $25,389 for a family of three.
If you know of someone in need of help, call the Cleveland Foodbank Help Center at 216-738-2067. If you would like to make a donation to the Cleveland Foodbank, go to www.ClevelandFoodbank.org.