Food Stamp Stimulus Runs Dry

By Peter O'Dowd
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013 - 8:34am
Updated: Monday, November 18, 2013 - 4:16pm
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Photo courtesy of the Association of Arizona Food Banks)
Clients wait in line to receive a food box at Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona in Tucson.

More than a million people living on food stamps in Arizona will see their benefits decrease at the end of this week, prompting food banks and other charities to prepare for a surge in demand.

Back in 2009, federal stimulus increased funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – known as SNAP. But now, that stimulus is running out. For Arizona, it amounts to a cut of about $109 million over the next year or so. Bigger states like Texas will lose about $400 million. The lost benefit in Arizona works out to $36 a month for a family of four.

“While that may not seem significant to a lot of people, it’s going to be very significant to folks who are on a shoestring budget and trying to make things work,” said Brian Simpson, spokesman for the Association of Arizona Food Banks.  

In turn, food banks are gearing up for extra demand, and Simpson’s group is also getting ahead of the problem by letting people know a change is coming. Meanwhile, the demand has already been higher than normal lately. During this month’s government shutdown the Salvation Army in Phoenix saw an extra dozen families a day looking for help because they weren’t getting paid, said John Brackenbury, the organization’s Valley of the Sun coordinator.

He said most of the 1.1 million people who use SNAP money don’t know they’re about to get a cut in their monthly benefits.

“Honestly, I don’t think they do,” Brackenbury said.

And more cuts are likely to come. This week Congress is debating the Farm Bill. Both the House and the Senate are proposing billions of dollars in additional cuts over the next decade to the food stamp program.

“As these programs are implemented or decreased, I think it will have a greater effect on people then they are anticipating,” Brackenbury said.

The latest benefit reduction starts this Friday.

View a map of state-by-state impact.

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