The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – what used to be “food stamps,” but now involves a debit card instead of paper coupons – is a lifesaver for some 1.7 million families in North Carolina. About 25% of children in North Carolina live in poverty, and for many of them, the only way they get a decent amount of food is through school lunch programs and SNAP benefits.
Now the federal government is moving to cut those SNAP benefits.
Back in 2009, the Recovery Act (a.k.a. the economic stimulus) boosted the maximum SNAP benefit by 13.6% in order to help families struggling because of the recession. Now Congress has moved to end the benefit increase on November 1.
Apparently, the folks in Congress are the only people in the nation who think that hardships of the Great Recession on low-income Americans have passed. With unemployment still well above the national average and decent-paying jobs actually getting harder to find, these cuts will come as a hard blow to the 17% of North Carolinians who faced food insecurity at some point last year.
These cuts will hit particularly hard in North Carolina, which ranks among the top 15 states for food hardship, including a top 5-ranking for Greensboro-High Point, NC for food hardship among the nation’s metropolitan areas. For a family of three, the cuts will likely 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. In addition, almost half of SNAP participants are children and about 1 in 4 are in families with elderly or disabled members.