By: Leah Uko
OMAHA (KPTM) – 47 million Americans are losing a percentage of the money they use to feed their families due a temporary boost to a federal program coming to an end without a new budget.
$5 billion were cut from the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, also known as, SNAP. A family of four that gets $668 per month in benefits will find that amount cut by $36.
$18 million was cut from SNAP in Nebraska. That will affect the 180,000 individuals and 79,000 households that benefit from food stamps according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
There are two reasons for the fiscal issue. The first is the additional SNAP allocations under President Obama's 2009 stimulus bill. The second is Congress's inability to agree on a new farm bill.
SNAP is approved in a five-year farm bill that covers all agricultural programs. Negotiations on a new bill, including cuts to the SNAP program, started Wednesday. Both the Congress and the Senate agree that more cuts to the program are needed—but do not agree on the amount.
The Congress wants to cut $39 billion, while the Senate wants to cut $4 billion.
President and CEO of the Food Bank for the Heartland, Susan Ogborn said grocery stores would feel the cuts first because people use their food stamps there first. The trickle-up effect, however, would eventually affect food banks.
Ogborn said the Food Bank for the Heartland bought $2.2 million worth of food for pantries to give to families. When families run out of food stamps, food pantries supply more food. If food demand at pantries goes up, food banks will need more money to supply the food.
"It's really important to be fiscally responsible," said Ogborn. "On the other hand we believe that there must be some other way of doing it besides taking it out on the poorest of the poor."
According to Nebraska DHHS, 66,000 people depend on food stamps and 30,000 households.
Jeff Jessen and his finance Sandy Mass are among them. The couple just had a baby boy on October 24th; the same week they found out their family of now six, will no longer receive $767 a month in food stamps, but about 10 percent less than that.
"We'll continue going forward. There's nothing—we can't stop," Jessen continued. "We got to keep on going."
The couple reached out to Together Inc. for help. The food pantry, along with other local organizations, helped them pay this month's rent and supplied them with enough groceries and diapers to last through November.
"We're just going to pinch our pennies and keep it in a savings account and hope we can come up with the money for the things we need come December," Mass said.
In Iowa, $43 million were cut from the food stamp program. Food pantries advise people not to panic, but see if the current pantry they are working with can provide any extra help.
Congress and the Senate have until the end of the year to pass a joint bill. If not, farmers will feel more effects next spring.
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