Major Cut in SNAP Benefits Will Take Effect on November 1, 2013

Editor's Note: We have just learned that if the federal government shutdown continues beyond October, the SNAP program will end, and there will be no SNAP benefits issued in November.

SNAP benefitsRecipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) benefits will see a 5- to 6-percent cut to their benefits next month. A household of three will receive $29 less in monthly benefits and a household of four will receive $36 less. Cuts of this magnitude are unprecedented. Here is chart showing the amount of the monthly cut in benefits by household size

There has been little if any publicity about this change. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), which administers SNAP, has decided not to send notices of the change to SNAP recipients. Most SNAP recipients will not learn of this benefit cut until their November benefits are loaded on their LINK cards.

The November cut in benefits is unrelated to the recent attempts in Congress to make major cuts to SNAP. Rather, this cut results from the expiration of temporary increases in SNAP benefit levels that were included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and that have been in effect for the past four years. The total size of the November 2013 cuts will be approximately $5 billion for the 11 months remaining in federal fiscal year 2014 and an additional $6 billion across fiscal years 2015 and 2016. It is estimated that Illinoisans will lose $220 million in SNAP benefits over the 11 months beginning in November. Without the ARRA boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.

The ARRA increase to SNAP benefits in 2009 was meant to ease the hardship caused by the financial collapse that weighed most heavily on America’s struggling poor and middle class. USDA research has found that ARRA’s benefit boost cut the number of households in which one or more person had to skip meals or otherwise eat less because they lacked money—what USDA calls “very low food security”—by about 500,000 U.S. households in 2009. Even with the ARRA increase, between 2008 and 2012 more than 22 percent of Illinois households with children experienced times when they did not have enough money to buy food, and more than 14 percent of Illinois households without children indicated experiencing the same.

The Census Bureau recently announced that 15 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2012, the same percentage as in 2010 and 2011. Hence, the November SNAP cuts, coming at a time when financial recovery from the great recession is nowhere to be found in low income America, will surely increase and deepen hunger.

There is no possibility that Congress will act to prevent these cuts from going into effect next month. Organizations that work with people who receive SNAP benefits should post and distribute the IDHS poster about the change, found here.

Resources for SNAP Families and Individuals:

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