FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 30, 2013
Contact: Jon Whiten, NJPP, 609-393-1145 ext. 15 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Expiration of Benefit Boost Comes as Congress Debates Even Deeper Cuts to Vital Food Program
Beginning Friday, nearly 1 million New Jerseyans will see their food assistance benefits cut, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires.
The cut in food assistance is the result of the October 31 expiration of a modest boost in benefits to SNAP recipients that policymakers included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to strengthen the economy and ease hardship. It will affect all of the more than 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who receive SNAP. This includes a total of 862,000 New Jerseyans, or about 1 of every 10 residents – of which 415,000 are children.
For a family of three in New Jersey, that cut will likely mean a reduction of $29 a month. This is a serious loss for families whose benefits, after this cut, will average less than $1.40 per person per meal. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an additional $40 billion in SNAP cuts, which, if enacted, would come on top of the cuts taking effect this week.
“This small increase in SNAP benefits has helped half a million struggling New Jersey families stay afloat during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression – a crisis that has not yet fully abated,” says NJPP senior policy analyst Raymond Castro. “For many of these families, this modest assistance is providing a lifeline to those who are struggling to find work, or are working at jobs that do not pay them enough to put food on the table.”
In addition to helping to feed hungry families, SNAP is one of the fastest, most effective ways to stimulate a struggling economy. Every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity.
The across-the-board cuts scheduled for November will reduce the program by $5 billion in fiscal year 2014 alone – New Jersey’s share of the cut will be $90 million. Cuts of that magnitude will significantly harm low-income families.
“SNAP has never experienced a reduction in benefits that impacts all participants, including 22 million children nationwide and 415,000 children in New Jersey,” says Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. “Given the fact that benefits are already inadequate for many families, these cuts will be particularly painful.”
With nowhere else to turn, more struggling New Jerseyans may end up turning to the state’s food banks and soup kitchens, which are already struggling with increased demand brought on by the recession.
“We are here for emergency situations, to help prevent dire outcomes for New Jersey’s neediest families,” says Diane Riley, director of advocacy at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, the largest food bank in the state. “But increasingly we are acting as a regular safety net for many residents. These cuts will only exacerbate that trend, and organizations like ours, frankly, won’t be able to pick up the slack.”
On top of the cuts going into effect today, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation cutting $40 billion from SNAP, potentially eliminating assistance for at least 59,000 New Jerseyans and nearly 4 million nationwide. The legislation would provide strong financial incentives for states to reduce their caseloads, making it significantly harder for struggling families to put food on the table, and would eliminate assistance for some of the poorest Americans. The House-passed plan for SNAP coupled with today’s cuts would deal a significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet as the economy continues to slowly recover.
“This federal food assistance has been a powerful tool in helping to keep families out of poverty,” says Castro. “The majority of SNAP recipients who are able to work, do so. And for those who can’t or are temporarily unable to find a job, SNAP has helped to give them a leg up. With so many New Jerseyans still out of work or working for less money that they did before, it is certainly not the time to further reduce this already modest assistance to these struggling families.”
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