What you need to know about upcoming short-term cuts to Food Stamps.

Today’s post is brought to you by Sara Robbins, Benefits Attorney at Solid Ground and Coalition on Homelessness Board Member. 

At the federal level it’s called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Here in Washington we call it Basic Food. But many just know the program that helps people who are low income put food on the table through monthly benefits as ‘Food Stamps.’ Keeping the names straight can be hard enough, but there’s something on the horizon that is even more important to be aware of and straighten out…

There is going to be a short-term cut in Food Stamps for some households in November and December.  It is going to be confusing. Be sure to thoroughly read this publication from Washington Law Help that explains the cut.

In the meantime, here are ways you can proactively help folks receiving Basic Food:

  • Emphasize that the benefit loss is for two months only.  Recipients should contact the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) if they do not receive two benefit deposits in January 2015.
  • Ask whether the household has separate utility bills that they pay each month – that is, utilities are not included in their rent.  If so, urge them to contact DSHS immediately to provide this information so they will continue to qualify for higher benefits with NO months of reduced benefits.   
  • Encourage new applicants for Basic Food to let their caseworker know if they have separate utility payments each month.

Contact me (see below) if you have any questions, and please share this publication with any staff that are working with clients/guests! 

Sara Robbins, Benefits Attorney
Phone: 206.694.6741 Fax: 206.694.6777
www.solid-ground.org  www.solidgroundblog.com

Nancy Amidei’s Food Stamp Diary: Week Three (Including a Holiday Message to Congress, urging them to restore cuts made to SNAP)

WEEK THREE

Day One

Went to a friend’s birthday celebration – which means I ate well that night, AND I can stretch last week’s meat purchase a bit longer.  I mentioned feeling guilty that I’d eaten so well, and was told:  think of it as a visit to a soup kitchen – rare, but wonderful.

Day Two

One thing I hear a lot:  “What about beans? They’re good for you, and low-cost.”
Answer:  I’m not too fond of beans, especially not as a big part of my diet.

However I AM getting lots of money-saving tips – many of which involve cooking that takes a long time. It’s a trade-off that can work for someone like me, but not for anyone with a low-paying job, long commutes, and/or no kitchen (e.g., if I were living in my car, or at a shelter).

Day Three

A friend gave me three oranges ~ what a treat!  Later, at a meeting, someone put out a bowl of red grapes.  Fruit TWICE in the same day!  In the past, that would not feel like a big deal; on $4.20/day – it’s a VERY big deal.
And since I’m fighting a cold, that fruit feels downright therapeutic.  Plus, I spotted some leftover Halloween candy in a kitchen drawer… good news for my sugar-craving (tho’ admittedly not in my budget).

Day Four

Finishing off my potatoes and carrots.  Running out of bread; tired of cheap cheese.  If this continues, I’ll try to make some different choices, based on what I’ve learned… if I can. However I realized today that I’m going through a lot of cough drops (which I didn’t count in my food budget). While it’s true that I have a cold and cough, I suspect this is really about keeping a taste in my mouth when I’m hungry.  Hmmm.

Day Five

It now appears likely that the Conference Committee on the Farm Bill will not finish before Congress adjourns at the end of this week.  That means the issue of food stamp cuts won’t be settled til Congress convenes again in January.  It also means I won’t be facing the holidays on $4.20/day. A relief.
But I’m keenly aware that everyone who depends on food stamps isn’t so lucky.

Last Day

Dropped another half-pound.  Used up the last of the eggs in my fridge, the last of a few other items.  If Congress hadn’t adjourned, I’d be heading out to shop for a week’s worth of groceries for $29.40. Everyone should do this for a couple of weeks, especially anyone who thinks getting food stamps makes for an easy life, or prompts people to quit their jobs.

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It is hard to fathom why Congress would “choose” hunger for millions of people by cutting SNAP even more – and yet that’s what’s being proposed when Congress returns in January.  Low-income people don’t “choose” hunger.  It’s no mystery that SNAP use rises when unemployment rises, and falls when the economy picks up.  And while SNAP helps, $4.20/day for food doesn’t make unemployment easy.

In each of my three weeks on a food stamp allotment, I was:  thinking of food a LOT; conscious of a growling stomach a LOT; and generally aware of having less energy.  Why anyone would wish that on millions of children, elderly, low-wage workers, and people with disabilities – especially in our food-rich country – is beyond me.

So I hope that everyone reading this will send a Holiday Message about SNAP to our two U.S. Senators (Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell) and your 1 U.S. Representative. Not sure how to contact your U.S. Senators or Representatives, visit the Coalition’s website to find their contact information. Your message can be something as simple as:

  “In the midst of holiday meals and parties, I hope you will remember all those who are struggling to get by on food stamps.  And when Congress reconvenes, ask your colleagues to RESTORE the cuts made on November 1, and REJECT any further cuts in SNAP.”