A massive cut in food stamps happens this week and is the first across-the-board reduction in the history of the federal program. On Friday, $5 billion will be cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Should conservative Republicans in Congress accomplish their goals, Friday's pullback could be a small taste of what is to come for the nation's largest anti-hunger program, which benefits almost 48 million Americans.
SNAP is designed to help the needy buy food, reports Reuters. However, enrollment has doubled since 2004, while the program's cost tripled in the same time period.
Even as the economy improves and unemployment declines, the cost remained at record levels. Critics of the food stamps program claim the record numbers prove that the program is in need of reform. However, defenders believe that the high enrollment is simply a sign that recovery from the recession is still weak.
About one in every seven Americans will be affected by Friday's food stamps cut, which the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank, explains will cost recipients about $10 per month per person, notes MSN News.
Anti-poverty groups warned for months of the dangers of cutting the program, which provides aid recipients with about $133 per month for food. Ellen Vollinger, legal director at the Food Research and Action Center, explained, "People are living at the margins. It's not an abstract metric for people. It's actually dollars to keep food in the refrigerator."
The $5 billion being cut from SNAP on Friday is part of a 2009 stimulus package to help the economy during recession. Congress chose not to renew the stimulus. More cuts to the program are also expected in the new US farm bill, which is in its final stage of preparation.
Conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill in September to tighten the eligibility standards of the SNAP program. The bill would, in effect, end benefits for about five percent of recipients and cut $39 billion from the program in the next 10 years.
Negotiators from the House and Senate will begin negotiations on a compromise for the farm bill this week. It is likely that more cuts to the food stamp program will be part of the finalized bill.
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