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Pantry Alert: Cuts in Food Stamps Benefits Will Affect 3.6 Million Floridians Staring Nov. 1

| October 26, 2013

Stocking up. (FlaglerLive)

Stocking up. (© FlaglerLive)

Florida’s food programs are bracing for cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that kick in Nov. 1 — while watching warily as U.S. House and Senate conferees prepare to negotiate a federal farm bill, which could have much more far-reaching consequences for hungry Floridians.

Food banks and other programs that help Florida’s 3.6 million food-insecure residents have known for years about the cuts coming next week. The cuts were built into the 2008 federal-stimulus package that temporarily added money to SNAP, also known as food stamps, during the depths of the economic recession.

But that won’t make the cuts any easier, say advocates for the food banks and other supplemental programs. The cuts amount to $36 monthly for a family of four getting the maximum benefit of roughly $668.

“That’s going to be a significant hit for families,” said Rebecca Brislain, executive director of the Florida Association of Food Banks. “We already know SNAP doesn’t last the whole month.”

“I don’t think a lot of people realize just how low the SNAP benefit is,” said Debra Susie, executive director of the anti-poverty group Florida Impact. “In the state of Florida, the SNAP benefit per person per day is about $4.60.” And that’s before the monthly reductions that kick in Nov. 1.

The good news, said Brislain, is short-term: The state’s food banks have built their donor base and increased distribution since the recession began. Four years ago, they were collecting and distributing 72 million pounds of food a year; now, that’s up to 173 million pounds a year.

But Brislain said the long-term problem is that Florida isn’t recovering from the recession fast enough, and the state’s many low-paying jobs don’t provide enough income to make ends meet.

“All it takes is what some people consider a small family crisis — a flat tire, someone in the family getting sick — anything can stretch the circumstances to the point they need extra help,” she said. “There’s no discretion on your rent. Food is the one area, unfortunately, that people can cut back on.”

Florida’s food hardship rate is more than 21 percent, meaning that one in five Florida households reported that in the past year they struggled to buy enough food for the family.

The state is one of the hardest-hit for food security, with six urban areas in the nation’s top 25 for food hardship in 2011-2012. Those areas are Orlando-Kissimmee, Lakeland-Winter Haven, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Jacksonville and Cape Coral-Fort Myers. From June 2011 to June 2012, Florida saw the nation’s second-highest increase in SNAP use — a rise of 9.7 percent.

That fragility is why advocates for the food programs are watching nervously as the U.S. House and Senate prepare to negotiate further cuts to SNAP.

Republicans contend the food stamp budget should be cut by as much as $39 billion, the amount the GOP-led House included in its version of the federal farm bill in September. The Democratic-led Senate passed cuts of about $4 billion. Now the two chambers will go into conference on the bill Wednesday, while President Obama has vowed to veto cuts to SNAP that are too drastic.

The House also passed the so-called Southerland amendment, by U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., which includes work requirements. The House bill denies SNAP benefits to adults aged 18 to 50 who are not disabled, raising children, enrolled in training or working at least 20 hours per week.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Policies, the House bill would mean more than 400,000 Floridians could lose food assistance.

“What we have done in this country is wrong,” Southerland said on the House floor last month. “We have failed in introducing the blessing of work to able-bodied people who have the ability, who are mentally, physically, psychologically able to work, and we have robbed them of knowing a better life that they helped create for themselves and their families.”

The state has picked up some of the slack. The 2013 Legislature allocated $700,000 for supplemental nutrition programs — a 75 percent increase, said state Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula and chairman of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

“I don’t pretend to understand a lot of the politics played in Washington,” Albritton said. “But in the Florida Legislature, we’re going to be working to help people in need, including programs like this.”

–Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida

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24 Responses for “Pantry Alert: Cuts in Food Stamps Benefits Will Affect 3.6 Million Floridians Staring Nov. 1”

  1. m&m says:

    Maybe they will have to get a job and go to work..

    • Charles Gardner says:

      Where are the jobs in this area?

    • The Truth says:

      Ah, the ever so popular (with Republicans) get a job and go to work response. It seems this is all so common with Republicans and anyone who “lives” off the government. According to Republican’s, anyone who is on food stamps is likely: black, lazy and never going to work.

      It’s a shame this thought process clouds the minds of Conservatives, but it doesn’t surprise me. The attitude of the Republican party is always: “Whatever is good for me is okay, but everyone else needs to work for theirs”.

      Responses like this make me sick to my stomach. There are so many people who are struggling in life for many reasons, have a safety net like this is necessary. Sure, we need to make sure it’s not being abused, but to make comments like this as if a majority of people on food stamps are not trying to get a job is disgusting, yet in this political age not surprising from a Republican.

      There’s a reason your party is dying and this is one of them.

  2. Florida Native. says:

    Which means the checkout lanes at Publix in Palm Coast will much fewer customers between the first and tenth of the month as half of Palm Coast is either on food stamps or welfare. Anybody with any sense left this hell hole.

    • The Truth says:

      You must be such an enjoyable person to spend time with. I have lived in Palm Coast for a portion of my life. Are there things I dislike? Sure there are. I would never go as far as calling Palm Coast a “hell hole”. Perhaps you need to go experience life in some other cities, cities that actually have high crime rates and large amounts of people on welfare.

      I am a firm believer that if you dislike your living situation, do something about it.

    • Rick says:

      And go where, to another hell hole?
      My wife & I are still reside here, with sense, thank you.

  3. A.S.F. says:

    I have recently read a couple of articles about how two major employers–McDonalds and Walmart, consistently critical of raises in the minimum wage and the effects of Obamacare on big business,have “advised” their employees, on a mass scale, about how to apply for food stamps and other entitlments. This enables these employers to spend as little as possible on wages while shifting the burden of what their employees need to keep food on their tables and a roof over their head onto the American taxpayer. It serves, in a very real sense, as corporate welfare, so they can rake in more profit at the expense of everyone else. I think it is time for big business to stop whining about how the big bad US government is trying to bankrupt them. This is not capitalism at its best. Let’s have business show a little more responsibility to those who make their profits possible. I know a lot of people like to think that food stamps all go the “welfare queens” in their imaginations. Unfortunately, that is very far from the truth. When these cuts go into effect, many people are going to suffer badly, especially children, the poor (even the working poor) and the disabled.

    • The Truth says:

      How dare you bring common sense and logic into the discussion? Don’t you know that welfare/food stamps are from lazy people who don’t want to work?

      I completely agree with you regarding corporations. So many people say: You shouldn’t expect to work at Walmart/McDonalds and earn a good living. My take on this is: if you are working 40 hours anywhere, particularly for a successful company like McDonalds or Walmart who posts HUGE profits each quarter, asking for a livable wage with affordable health care/benefits is not too much to ask for. I am sick and tired of seeing companies blame “OBAMACARE” or the government for everything that happens to them, yet companies like Walmart shift their employees to food stamps and welfare to avoid giving them a livable wage and affordable benefits. I despise companies like Walmart and will never support a company like that in my life.

  4. Florida Native. says:

    McDonalds and Wal Mart don’t owe their employees a damned thing. If they don’t like the low wages they can go to a trade school or college at night with grants and student loans,get a degree and get a higher paying job. Nobody makes them work there. Stop whining and saying the government owes you something. The government doesn’t owe you a damned thing. If you want to live in a socialist country move to Cuba,North Korea or China. This is the United States. Get over it.

    • Geezer says:

      McDonald’s and Walmart do owe their employees something.
      They owe them A LIVING WAGE so that they don’t need to put
      their kids on welfare or need to depend on the government or charity.
      All the while their employers flood our country with Chinese exports
      and clobber small businesses out of existence, and raking HUGE profits.
      Profits that are mostly sheltered from taxation.
      Is that YOUR vision of America?

      Perhaps YOU should emigrate to CUBA and see what going to bed hungry
      is like after breaking your ass is all day in the tropical heat.

      By the way, Professor – the government is supposed to work for us.
      That’s why we pay taxes.

      This is the United States and it belongs to all of us.
      Who died and made you the emperor?

    • A.S.F. says:

      @Florida Native says–You know that those “grants and student loans” you are referring to are underwritten by the government in most cases , don’t you? So, do you think that the people who take advantage of those programs being there when they need them should feel ashamed to be in that position? Should they feel like lesser human beings for having needed that helping hand? Following your philosophy, why should I have to pay for somebody else’s ride on their way up to the top? This is the sense of entitlement that I think “The Truth” illustrated so well in his/her previously stated comment. It’s OK for Conservatives and more successful element in our country to suddenly develop amnesia and forget about the small business, business incentives or student loans and grants that made THEIR success possible. Now, THEY feel entitled to pass judgement on others, not so fortunate as they now are…but, I’d be real careful that Karma dpesn’t come back to bite them on the a**. For instance, Florida Native, no matter how much you’ve put into to Social Security and Medicare during your working life, it is not sitting in a bank account somewhere with your personal name on it (and, even if it was, you might well need to exceed the amount you put in.) You better hope that other working people who will be paying YOUR freight someday will be more generous and compassionate in their attitudes when you need them to care about YOUR welfare. I am all for self-determination. But blind selfishness and cruelty is another matter. I hope our country is more rich and generous in its sense of humanity than that.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you, some people work at these jobs because they are low paying, they purposely stay just to meet the Food Stamps requirements, that’s a shame, what gets me more upset is that they know how to abuse the system, and what’s worst that government allows them to do it, and when you have people like me who can’t get any of it, when a time of need comes in can’t get it. My beliefs are it should go to the elderly people, and the need, but it should also have a limit as well, it shouldnot allow people to go on it year after year.

  5. lovelylove says:

    Many misunderstandings about the reality of the need for food stamps. Just recently in Miami a huge story about a Non trying to shoplift food for her starving kids. A cop was called and instead of penalizing this Mother she bought her 100 dollars worth of food. Love one another as you love yourself. the Golden Rule, rules.

  6. markingthedays says:

    Conservatives seem to have this idea that if someone on food stamps isn’t literally Oliver from Oliver Twist then the or she some mythical “welfare queen”.

  7. HonkeyDude says:

    Mark my words…
    The goverments next step will be to stop letting the companies making the donations to food banks, use their donations of out of date food as tax write offs. Then the food banks will dry up.

  8. Rick says:

    “…..the U.S. House and Senate prepare to negotiate further cuts to SNAP.”
    You can safely wager that these people are far from going hungry, & then some.

  9. confidential says:

    Slowly but surely we are getting there…Just they do not call it Socialism here, as is just distorted, feudal Capitalism

  10. Comment You Need To Read says:

    If anyone actually went to the USDA website for snap benefits you would see the formula for calculating benefits. It would be near impossible for a family of four to receive the maximum benefit of $668/month. Here’s an example, the formula starts by taking your net income and multiplying it by a factor of 0.3, for the math challenged this makes the value smaller. Let’s look at a family of four making $23,556 annually. This is net poverty for a family of four. Snap benefits at this net amount qualifies you for up to the maximum. Let’s throw that number into the formula: $23,556 x 0.3 = $7,066.80 (assumed 30% of income goes to food while at poverty levels). SNAP then figures out how much that is per month, which is $588.90. SNAP then subtracts this from the maximum allocation possible, $668, and this is what you receive as your monthly benefit, $79.10. Theoretically, a family of four would have to earn nothing to receive the maximum benefit of $668/month.

    Now let’s look at the cuts. The $5 billion sunset will cut benefits as high as $36/month for a family of four. This equates to a 45.5% reduction in benefits. Regardless what you philosophically think of the program, this will be felt by most if not all people receiving benefits. Individuals struggling with low levels of education make decisions that are sometimes not effective for them or their family. Money may be misappropriated to items we feel are irrelevant to survival, but that will not reduce the impact it will have on those same people, when they see less money coming in. I hope we won’t see wide scale food riots akin to a couple weeks ago in Walmart, when the EBT system went down.


  11. confidential says:

    Cut these useless wars that cost us already 6 trillions and the foreign aid and help our own first!

  12. devrie says:

    To those who who aren’t in favor of foodstamps because all those poor people are lazy, have you ever considered how many of them are working? A good number of them are working, disabled, or elderly.

    That said, I’d agree that the program could be revamped. Too often, major employers use these assistance programs as a referral service for their employees.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t go against food stamps 100%, I can’t get them myself based on my tax bracket, I think that it should go to the elderly and disabled people, I am very disgusted on how people can just have kids and not be financially secured and live off peoples work, and be proud of it, and they abuse it year after year, I understand people have bad breaks, but don’t stay on it for long, do what is right. The other I despise is that I feel that the government allow these individuals to abused the system.

  13. djsii says:

    I worked for 30 years as an engineer and am 65 years old today. Doing the math relative to my age this means that I started my engineering career late in life. After serving in the Marines (late 60’s) I worked in construction for a number of years and the jobs just dried up. There I was with a wife, child, and house payment an no way to make a living.

    I turned to a Government run county organization that was subsidizing business in the area to hire people in an effort to retrain and employ those who were trying to better themselves. I was given a job where I worked among engineers and was excited enough to apply to a technical college (after being out of school for 9 years) and was accepted.

    It is difficult, at best, to go to college full time and try to keep your family afloat. I had to give up my job with the County. In it’s place I again worked construction during the summer and long holidays.

    For the next 4 years my family lived on extremely little money. I couldn’t earn enough with the intermittent construction jobs and had to look elsewhere. The Government was able to help me in two ways. (1) I received education benefits from the Veterans administration as a result of my service in the Marines. Although I was eternally grateful for their assistance, it was still not enough to feed my family. (2) I reluctantly had to apply for food stamps to feed my family in order to continue my education.

    I was embarrassed, humiliated, and felt somewhat of a failure for placing myself in a position of applying for, and accepting, welfare. It was difficult for me to walk up to the cashier at the store and produce the stamps at the register (looked like play money back then) since, for me, it was my declaration of failure. I sucked it up and endured for 4 years till my graduation as a mechanical engineer.

    My point in all this is that if it were not for the Veterans benefits or for the food stamps I would not have been as successful in life. I owe both those programs a debt of gratitude that is difficult to repay.

  14. A.S.F. says:

    @djsil says–You are to be commended and deserve all the success in life that can possibly come your way. I wish the best for you and your family. And Thank You for your service as a Marine.

  15. Sherry Epley says:

    Here is the problem. . . many conservatives think that people must be catagorized as either “makers” or “takers”! These are literally the names used by their celebrated leaders. There seems to be no recognition of anything in between. . . such as the wonderful story told by “djsii”. People are told to “get a job”, but then there is little support for the “public education” needed to compete for those jobs.

    It’s just so easy to say “pull yourself up by your boot straps”, but what about those with no boots? Instead of issuing Welfare checks, we should be providing ways for all citizens to succeed, by investing in them. . . not discriminating against them, and not by doing everything we can to cut the programs they need to improve themselves so that they can acquire the jobs they need to feed their families.

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