WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The gridlock in Washington began taking a major toll at the dinner table for tens of millions of Americans Friday. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits fell for more than 47 million lower-income people Friday.
The SNAP program, also known as food stamps, used to max out at $668 a month for a family of four. After the cuts went into effect Friday morning, the maximum amount a family of four can receive will drop to $632, or a cut of $432 a year.
Most of the 47 million Americans on food stamps live in homes with children, seniors, or people with disabilities. The cuts came after the benefits were boosted in the stimulus act that helped keep the country from sinking into a depression during the financial crisis in 2009. The boost expired Friday and the cuts went into place.
The USDA said the cuts to food stamps will leave people on food stamps an average of $1.40 to spend on each meal. But the cuts that went into effect Friday may not be the end of the misery for those on SNAP.
The House of Representatives wants to cut up to an additional $40 billion from the food stamp program as part of the pending farm bill. House and Senate negotiators have to meet later this year to try to come to an agreement on just how deep the cuts will be for SNAP.
Food stamps are the government’s biggest nutrition-assistance program for low-income people and, along with federal unemployment benefits, a key support system for the most vulnerable Americans.
More than three-quarters of households getting food stamps include a child, elderly person or someone with a disability. Some 83 percent of families are at or below the official poverty line (roughly $11,500 for an individual and $23,500 for a family of four).
Thanks to the Great Recession and a commitment to austerity by the government in the wake of the recession, an additional 21 million people were added to SNAP since 2008. Today, more than 1 in 4 U.S. children live in a home that gets food stamps.
Another group with lots of members in SNAP: Veterans. U.S. Census Bureau data show that, in 2011, some 900,000 former U.S. military personnel lived in households that used food stamps.
Economists have found that every dollar of SNAP spending generates roughly $1.70 in local economic activity. The USDA has calculated that food stamps generate an even bigger bang for the buck. So pinching food stamp recipients will ripple into the broader U.S. economy.
Among other effects, that could dent revenues for the nearly 250,000 groceries and supermarkets around the country that accept SNAP payments, potentially affecting everyone from store workers and truck drivers delivering food to consumers, as food sellers raise prices to offset the loss of revenue.
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