* From the Illinois Hunger Coalition and Voices for Illinois Children…
More than 2 million low-income people in Illinois who will have their food assistance cut when a boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) expires this Friday, Nov. 1. SNAP benefits will average only about $1.40 per person per meal after the cut.
The cut will affect all of the nearly 47 million Americans, including 22 million children, who receive SNAP. For a family of three, this cut will amount to $29 a month. That’s a serious loss given SNAP’s already low benefit levels and the very low incomes of SNAP participants — over 80 percent of SNAP households live in poverty. “I cannot imagine what the proponents of this cut are thinking since we know that SNAP has provided an important stepping stone for struggling Illinois families and the 886,000 children who will be affected by this cut,” says Diane Doherty, Executive Director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition.
In Illinois, the benefit cut through September 2014 will total $220 million, which will further undermine the economy in communities across our state as families reduce their spending at local stores. These cuts will most certainly result in more households seeking help from the Illinois emergency food network, which is already strained. A caller to the IL Hunger Coalition’s state-wide Hunger Hotline, Ms. Bunny Patterson, a senior citizen living in Lake County says, “even though I get the minimum SNAP benefit of $16, this cut will make it more difficult for me to get by. I do not understand why they would cut this benefit even more.” Ms. Patterson is one of the 349,000 elderly or disabled individuals in IL who will be affected by the cuts on Nov. 1.
On top of the across-the-board cut that will take effect on Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation cutting $40 billion from SNAP, potentially eliminating assistance for nearly 4 million people nationwide, including at least 182,000 people in Illinois – representing families with children, seniors, people who have lost a job and are unable to find work, and veterans.
“SNAP has been a powerful tool in helping to keep families out of poverty,” stated Gaylord Gieseke, president of Voices for Illinois Children. “The House-passed SNAP cuts on top of the cuts beginning this Friday would deal another significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet as the economy continues to slowly recover. Our representatives in Congress must not ignore the hundreds of thousands of Illinois children whose nutrition and healthy development depends on SNAP. When Congress cuts SNAP, it undermines the well-being of some of the most vulnerable children and families in America.”
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 SNAP plan coupled with the November 1 cuts would deal a significant blow to millions of Americans who continue to struggle to make ends meet.
* But that’s not a problem, says a nutritionist with the University of Illinois’ Extension service…
Illinois is reducing EBT payments for two million families in Illinois who get the assistance, but the smaller benefits are neither a surprise nor a problem.
The 2009 federal expansion of the SNAP program, what most people call food stamps, has expired, forcing reductions across the country, Illinois Department of Human Service’s spokeswoman Januari Smith said.
Benefits for family of four in Illinois could decrease by $36 a month, she said.
But the family won’t go hungry, still getting more than $600 each month to spend on groceries. The maximum food stamp benefit for a family of four is set to slide from $668 to $632, each month.
McKenzie Riley, a nutritionist with the University of Illinois Extension office, said that’s well above an average monthly allowance for food.
“A lot of places, (the average) is $100 per person, per month,” Riley said. “Depending of course … on what your household is made up of.”
Riley says it will cost a little more to feed two teenagers than to feed two children younger than 5.
Illinois’ average food stamp family — a parent and a child — gets $367 a month for groceries, but that falls to $347 Friday.
Cook your own food and do a little bargain shopping, and that should be plenty, Riley says.