Low-Income Massachusetts Residents Facing ‘Food Stamp’ Cuts
By Shujie Leng
BU News Service
WASHINGTON – Low-income residents in Massachusetts who rely on federal food assistance may soon face a tougher time feeding their families, as a $5 billion nationwide cut in benefits is scheduled to take place at the end of this week.
Joined by representatives of non-governmental organizations from across the country, members of the House Democrats’ Progressive Caucus – including Rep. James McGovern of Worcester –– Tuesday called for a one-year extension of the $5 billion due to be cut this Friday, Nov. 1., from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The program was formerly known as food stamps.
The cut is a result of an expiring provision in the federal economic stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009.
“Hunger is a political condition. We have the ability here to mend it. We have the ability here to make it worse, ”McGovern told a Capitol Hill press conference. Mr. McGovern is among the members of the House-Senate conference committee dealing with far
m bill programs as well as SNAP; the committee convened Wednesday for the first time.
In Massachusetts, one in seven residents relies on SNAP benefits, and the average SNAP benefit for each household per household was $235 per month in 2012.
In October, those who rely on SNAP benefits saw their benefits go up a bit due to the change of the cost of living. But, starting Friday, an eligible household of three in the Bay State will see an average monthly cut of $29 in their SNAP benefits, leading up to a total of $95 million SNAP cuts statewide for the next 11 months, according to Pat Baker, a senior policy analyst at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., joined Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and another 37 senators in a letter Monday urging farm bill negotiators to resist substantial cuts in SNAP benefits. Last June, the Senate passed a farm bill which included $4.5 billion cuts on SNAP over 10 years. But the House approved legislation last month, with a far steeper reduction: $40 billion over the same period.
“I’m not prepared to throw poor people under the bus in order to get a bill, and I’ll tell you if this is bill that makes more people hungry, people like me are going to do everything we can to try to stop it,” McGovern said following Tuesday’s press conference.. “At the very minimum, we are not to make things worse by passing more cuts in the farm bill.”