In less than three months, the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary boost to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will be ending.
Effective on Nov. 1, the cuts will result in nearly 875,000 Kentuckians – almost 4,900 from Calloway County – receiving reduced benefits based on the size of the household in which recipients live.
Based on Congressional Budget Office food price inflation projections, households with one person could see an average $8 decrease a month, $14 a month for households of two, $20 a month for households of three and $25 a month for households of four – which could result in a reduction totaling anywhere from $96 to $300 in yearly SNAP dollars per person.
Anya Weber, information officer for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said according to new Food and Nutrition Service guidelines, a family of four receiving the maximum allotted benefit will see a decrease from $668 to $632 per month starting in November – a loss of 5.4 percent.
With SNAP allotment tied to standard deductions such as shelter costs, disabilities and countable income, Weber said it will be difficult to determine how families receiving less than the maximum allotment for their household will be impacted by the reduction in SNAP benefits.
The Recovery Act of 2009 provided an across-the-board 13.6 percent increase of SNAP funding to families over the last four years – most of which, Weber said, are low-income working families and/or elderly disabled people who operate on modest fixed incomes.
Over the years, Weber said Kentucky has been noted as a high SNAP participation state due to several factors – available services in all 120 counties, the integration of SNAP with Medicaid, KCHIP, Cash Assistance and Child Care Assistance and a high level of automation through technology.
“Like most states, Kentucky saw unprecedented growth in SNAP participation starting in late 2007,” she said. “As the economy has improved, the caseload growth has leveled off.”
Following the cuts, a family of four in December 2013 would receive $158 per person per month. In a 30-day month, if each person eats three meals a day, the cost allowance of each meal is $1.75.
In 2012, nearly 47 million Americans received an average $133 per person in SNAP benefits every month. Yet, according to the USDA “Thrifty Plan” for men ages 19-50, a January grocery bill should run close to $180.
“SNAP recipients often utilize food banks and other local faith and community-based feeding programs,” Weber said, as the Food Stamp Act is meant as a supplement to income-needy families. “The elderly and disabled often utilize meal programs provided by the Department for Aging and Independent Living.”
In Murray, community-based feeding would come from local churches and the Community Kitchen, but most especially Need Line, which is expected to be seriously impacted over the November and December months when the cuts first drop just in time for family holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.
“Anytime there is a change, it hurts – especially in the beginning,” said Tonia Casey, executive director of Need Line in Murray. “It’s like a layoff; a fear factor sets in and people start asking ‘This is different – how do we make it?’”
Using the same poverty guidelines for assistance as the SNAP program, Casey said most families receiving benefits from SNAP often apply and qualify for help from Need Line.
With 13 percent of the county receiving some sort of assistance either from SNAP, Need Line or both, Casey said the average low-income family in Calloway County (3.5 persons per household) will need further assistance when the cuts are levied.
“The biggest problem we will be facing is food insecurity and where the next meal will be coming from,” she said. “An empty stomach often leads to an empty mind.”