November 1, 2013. Beginning today, almost 3.2 million people in New York will see their food assistance benefits cut as the federal government ends a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The New Yorkers affected by this cut—in what used to be known as the “food stamps” program—include more than 1.2 million children and over 1 million elderly and disabled individuals. Overall, New York residents will receive $332 million less in SNAP benefits in the 11 months from November 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014.
Today’s cut hits all of the more than 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who currently benefit from SNAP. The boost in benefits expiring today was part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). This increase was implemented to strengthen the economy while easing hardship for needy families.
For a family of three in New York, today’s cut will mean a reduction of $29 each month. This is a serious loss for families whose benefits, after this cut, will average less than $1.40 per person per meal.
“While the Great Recession is officially over, the economy has not bounced back with the strength of previous recoveries. For those families that are suffering the most from our nation’s unacceptably high unemployment and underemployment rates, this is not the right time to eliminate the small but crucial increase in SNAP benefits that the federal government has been providing,” said Frank Mauro of the Fiscal Policy Institute.
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.
On top of the cuts going into effect today, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation that would cut an additional $40 billion from SNAP, potentially eliminating assistance for at least 211,000 people in New York and nearly 4 million nationwide. That legislation would provide strong financial incentives for states to reduce the number of people receiving assistance, making it significantly harder for struggling families to put food on the table, and completely eliminating 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 its slow and uneven recovery.
 A provision in this legislation would allow states to cut off SNAP benefits to most adults if they are not working or participating in a work or training program for at least 20 hours a week. States could keep half of the federal savings from these reductions and use the funds for any purpose. Moreover, states that do not utilize this option would lose all federal matching funds for their SNAP employment and job training programs. This means that states like New York that run strong SNAP employment and training programs would have to choose between altering their current programs to satisfy the new federal requirements, or losing all federal matching funds.
Further information on the upcoming cuts can be found at SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants in November 2013, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3899 and Cuts in House Leadership SNAP Proposal Would Affect Millions of Low-Income Americans, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4009.