Written by Kristie Smith - Montana Budget and Policy Center
Beginning Nov. 1, 131,000 people in Montana saw their food assistance benefits cut, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) expired. This boost took effect in 2009 and aimed to strengthen the economy and ease hardship.
However, Congress chose to end the increase early, before struggling families have fully recovered. For a household of three, the early reduction will mean a loss of $29 in benefits each month, the equivalent of nearly two days’ worth of meals.
These cuts will have harmful impacts for thousands of Montana families who depend on SNAP to make ends meet during difficult times.
Genoa Carver of Billings said her family relied on SNAP after her mother experienced a traumatic brain injury and was hospitalized and unable to work.
“SNAP kept food on the table while my family was struggling. It allowed my sister and me to focus on school and allowed my mom to focus on recovering. Without SNAP, I'm sure there would have been days we didn't eat,” Carver said.
Carver said that cuts to the SNAP program will have a devastating effect on families like hers.
In addition to helping feed hungry families, SNAP is one of most effective ways to stimulate a struggling economy.
“Every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generates about $1.70 in economic activity,” said Jackie Semmens, policy analyst at the Montana Budget and Policy Center. “Because SNAP benefits increase farm production, create agricultural jobs and help give business to small grocery stores and local farmers’ markets, this cut will be felt in households and small businesses across the state. The cut will total a loss of $13 million to Montana over the next 11 months.”
On top of these reductions, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation cutting $40 billion from SNAP, potentially eliminating assistance for at least 12,000 people in Montana. The legislation would provide strong financial incentives for states to reduce their caseloads, targeting families who are already struggling. This proposal, coupled with these cuts, unfairly targets millions of the most vulnerable Americans and places a massive burden on community resources.
“Food banks across the nation continue to be stretched to the limit as they struggle to keep up with unprecedented demand in a weak economy,” said Kate Devino, chief policy officer of the Montana Food Bank Network. “Our ability to meet this need became even harder today and additional cuts to SNAP would further increase hunger and hardship for many Montanans. Montana’s emergency food providers simply cannot compensate for cuts to SNAP at a time when resources are already stretched so thin. Expecting private organizations to fill the gap is unrealistic, and devastating for the families and individuals who will bear the brunt of the cuts.”