Federal food stamp program to lose $5B, reductions begin Friday - FOX 35 News Orlando

Federal food stamp program to lose $5B, reductions begin Friday

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A temporary boost to the supplemental nutrition assistance program, known as SNAP, is ending. It's an across the board cut, totaling about $5 billion for 2014. Reductions begin Friday.

Hunger assistance program directors say this is a catastrophe. They say every dollar taken away affects children, seniors and people with disabilities.

Here in Illinois, a family of four that qualifies for the maximum benefits of $632 a month will get $36 less. It may not sound like a lot to some, but for low income individuals, it means cutting back significantly and stretching their groceries as much as possible.

Lazaro Suarez says he and his 5-year-old daughter have been barely making it with $140 a month on food stamps. Now, the part-time construction worker has to figure out how to stretch his benefits even more.

Like many, Suarez just learned of the cuts on Thursday, thanks to Diane Doherty of the Illinois Hunger Coalition who passed out fliers outside Department of Human Services Offices.

Participants were receiving an average of $1.50 per meal.  The cuts will bring that down to $1.40.

U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that 47 million Americans - 22 million of them children - will be affected.

Directors of the Emergency Food Networks in Chicago say those modest benefits were crucial to struggling families.

Suarez says he may have to start turning to food pantries for assistance. But according to Doherty, food pantries around Chicago and the country are already overwhelmed and this will only add to the strain.

SNAP costs the federal government about $80 billion a year. In 2009, congress passed a law to reverse a temporary increase in benefits as a part of an economic stimulus package.

More cuts could be on the way to food stamp or SNAP benefits. The senate approved legislation in June that would include $4.5 billion in cuts, while the house passed a bill last month that would cut $40 billion to the program over 10 years.

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