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Temporary food aid expires for about 500,000 low-income Minnesotans

REUTERS/Mike Blake
On Friday, the country’s neediest, including most of the 536,900 Minnesotans receiving government food assistance, will lose about $5 billion from the program popularly known as food stamps.

The debate in Washington about cutting federal food assistance for low-income people as part of the fight over the farm bill is getting a lot of attention, but a reduction in food aid for the needy is already kicking in with far less notice.

On Friday, a temporary increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits — put in place by Congress to help low-income people get through the Great Recession — expires.

The country’s neediest, including most of the 536,900 Minnesotans receiving government food assistance, will lose about $5 billion from the program popularly known as food stamps.


As of Nov. 1, an individual who receives benefits of $200 will be allocated $189, a decrease of $11. A family of four receiving $668 will receive about $36 less a month.

That decrease, for anyone accustomed to forking over $3 to $4 for a fancy coffee, may not seem like much.

But the Nov. 1 reduction and proposals to cut another $40 billion over 10 years as part of the new farm bill worry advocates for the poor in Minnesota.

“The proposed cuts would increase hunger among Minnesotans who still struggle to put food on the table during the slow economic recovery,’’ says the Rev. Alison Killeen, director of organizing and practical theology with the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition.

Policy debate

Further, Minnesota Budget Project Director Nan Madden argues cutting SNAP benefits is bad policy. SNAP, she writes in Minnesota Budget Bites, “is working the way it is supposed to: it grows when the economy is bad and more Americans are struggling; when the economy improves, its cost and caseloads shrink. The right way to reduce SNAP costs is to get the economy going and more people into good jobs.”

On the other hand, Republicans say their legislation, which carves out billions from the $80 billion food-aid program, is necessary to decrease the nation’s debt. They argue the program expanded even as the recession eased and jobless rates declined.

A study by Mark Nord and Mark Prell, published by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, said the temporary food-assistance increase improved the lives of the very poor:

We find that food expenditures by low-income households increased by about 5.4 percent and their food insecurity declined by 2.2 percentage points from 2008 to 2009. Food security did not improve for households with incomes somewhat above the SNAP eligibility range. These findings, based on data from the nationally representative Current Population Survey Food Security Supplement, suggest that the ARRA [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] SNAP enhancements contributed substantially to improvements for low-income households.

Research by Elton Mykerezi, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Applied Economics, and colleagues published in The Social Science Journal last month, corroborates the findings of Nord and Prell.

‘Food stamps’?

SNAP, by the way, is that program that most everyone keeps calling food stamps, though stamps have gone the way of the blacksmith and are now replaced by an EBT or electronic benefits card that looks a lot like a credit card. The 2008 farm bill renamed the program.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/31/2013 - 09:18 am.

    I would suggest

    that anyone who can make a cash donation to their local food shelf.
    Cash enables them to buy food more efficiently than we can, and does them more good than a few leftover soup cans.

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/31/2013 - 01:58 pm.

    $40 billion in cuts is one end of the spectrum,…

    …an opening offer in a bargaining position by the Republicans.

    However, the other end is about $12 billion in cuts proposed by the the Democrats !!

    So the parties are unified that the poor and hungry are just getting too much food.

  3. Submitted by John Appelen on 10/31/2013 - 02:52 pm.

    Good Idea Paul

    Any idea why in the world people want SNAP funded at the federal level?

    It seems this should be a local or state issue?

    Also, the farm program subsidizes the meals of all pre-school and school children. (ie Poor, Middle Class and Rich) The poor get a “full reimbursement” and the others get about a 50% subsidy.

    Why don’t they cut the partial subsidy and ear mark it for the poor? Thoughts?

  4. Submitted by Tom Lynch on 10/31/2013 - 03:18 pm.

    If we keep giving people food stamps, they’ll just get addicted to FOOD! (in my fake Republican voice)

  5. Submitted by John Bracken on 11/01/2013 - 08:04 am.

    An Inconvenient Truth

    Overwhelming, poverty in the Twin Cities correlates to less educated, unwed mothers having children when they have no viable way to support their children. One hungry child from an unwed mother….shame on society. Two or more hungry half siblings from the same unwed mother…shame on her.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/01/2013 - 08:50 am.

      Alleluia !!!

      Excellent comment !!!

    • Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 11/01/2013 - 11:59 am.

      It takes two to tango….

      1. Why isn’t she collecting child support from the father(s)? She didn’t get pregnant on her own….
      2. Why isn’t the county/state/federal govt locating and collecting support funds for those children?

      A UHC system would have the data to determine “Who’s the Daddy”. Collect from Daddy. A US National Identity Card allows people to vote (it IS “Voter ID”), *plus* it eliminates the ability to use a fake ID (fake IDs would NOT be in the system). It replaces other ID nationwide (such as a driver’s license) because it is an official ID that can be verified. Ever try to verify an ID from TX while in WA? Need access to all 50+ systems (50+ states/territories/DC/etc) to do so. Having ONE system verify all saves time AND money.

      So, if the claim is “we wanna save money”, then they HAVE to go to a US National Identity Card. As it is issued free of charge, that means it can be legally used to verify identity. It will also cut down the line at the DMV for those who want to get a driver’s license.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 11/01/2013 - 03:27 pm.

        Dear Old Dad

        My thoughts entirely. Where’s dad in this whole process? Why isn’t he contributing anything to support the children? After all, he contributed mightily to making the kid. What’s with all the blame on the mother and dad gets a complete free ride? There seems to be a bit of the ol’ double standard going on here.

  6. Submitted by jason myron on 11/01/2013 - 01:32 pm.

    Any idea why in the world people want SNAP funded at the federal

    Sure, when it comes to empathy for those less fortunate , the last thing that some of us want to do is throw those people into the wilderness in states infested with Tea Party legislators and Governors. They’ve proven time and time again that they have no interest in doing anything but humiliating and demonizing these people ( e.g. , “alleluia” )

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