The nearly 26,000 Cowlitz County residents who receive federal food stamp assistance will see their benefits cut Nov. 1 when a provision of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package expires, state health officials said.
In 2009, families on the food stamp program got some relief in their grocery budgets as part of the administration’s efforts to offset effects of the nation’s economic crisis. Now that those benefits are expiring, state officials are warning food stamp recipients that their benefits are about to shrink.
A family of three receiving maximum benefits will see a reduction of $29 in their monthly food income — from $526 to $497, according to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
It may not sound like a major hit, but small cuts have a big impact, especially on senior citizens, said Tammy Davies, the program manager for senior services at Longview’s Lower Columbia CAP.
“I’m very concerned,” Davies said, adding that even “$11 is a great deal to them.”
She said she worries that seniors on federal food assistance will cut down on the amount of milk, eggs and other “protein staples” that are essential to their diet.
It’s also possible, Davies said, that her clients will have to choose between medication and food. “And we’re going into winter where they’re going to have higher heat bills. Which do they choose?”
The reductions will affect about $1 million throughout the state, DSHS officials said.
These cuts will happen regardless of the outcome of a debate raging over a GOP proposal to cut the food stamp program by 5 percent. House Republicans voted Thursday slash the program, used by more than one in seven Americans, by $39 billion over a decade, saying it has become bloated and overused.
The measure now be considered by a House-Senate conference committee. The White House has promised to veto the food stamp cuts — if they even get to his desk. The Democrat-controlled Senate has proposed only tiny cuts in the program. And Washington Sen. Patty Murray blasted House Republicans for vote, calling the cuts “a systematic assault on programs to support poor and working-class Americans.”
Southwest Washington Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents Cowlitz County, was not in Washington, D.C., for Thursday’s food stamps vote because she is caring for her infant daughter, who is still hospitalized in California with a rare kidney disorder, the Vancouver Columbian reported.
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, an Eastern Washington Republican, said in a statement that the food stamp program has “grown at an unprecedented rate” since Obama took office.
She described the program as “a safety net gone well beyond what it was intended for,” according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
In addition to those potential cuts, Davies, of Lower Columbia CAP, said the so-called “sequestration” spending reductions that kicked in earlier this year when members of Congress couldn’t reach a compromise on long-term spending, are also going to impact poor families and seniors.
“They’re going to continue to take hits, not just the food stamp part,” she said of the area’s seniors. “Our demand is higher than our resources already.”