Food stamp benefits for more than 1.1 million children and adults in Washington state were reduced last week when a temporary boost in aid tied to the 2009 federal stimulus package expired.
State officials estimate the benefit cuts will total some $144 million a year in lost federal assistance.
The monetary loss is significant, but the real loss is in the ability of struggling families to ward off hunger.
The cutbacks in food stamp will reduce monthly assistance as much as $11 per person and $29 for a family of three. The cuts will place added pressure on local food banks to help put food on the table for those in need, including children, the elderly and individuals with disabilities.
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The shrinking benefits highlight just how important it is for Democrats and Republicans in Congress to roll up their sleeves and get to work reconciling their vastly different proposed spending plans for the federal food stamp program, which is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
SNAP made up about 80 percent of the five-year farm bill that expired Sept. 30. The Senate version of the farm bill trims some $4 billion of food stamp spending over the next 10 years. House Republicans want to ax almost that much money per year over the next decade. Both sides must compromise.
In a nation of plenty, it’s unconscionable that so many people go hungry each night. An adequately funded food stamp program is only part of the solution to ending hunger in America, but it’s an important one.