From Beacon Journal staff, wire reports
COLUMBUS: About 1.8 million Ohioans will see their food stamp benefits decrease slightly today, a move advocates for the poor say is going to hurt.
The 2009 economic stimulus bill temporarily boosted the federal food stamp program for its 48 million recipients nationwide. Those boosted benefits expired at midnight Thursday, resulting in automatic 5.5 percent cuts to monthly distributions.
For a mother with two children, the reduction means about $29 less per month. For a family of four, it’s a cut of about $36 a month, to $632.
“Thirty-six dollars is significant,” said Marilyn Tomasi, spokeswoman for the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. “It might not be significant for some, but it certainly is to a struggling family who is hungry. You could have a whole chicken dinner once a week for that.”
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt of the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks said she expects the program will end up taking more hits. She said a farm bill in Congress could cut food stamps by up to $40 billion over the next decade.
The federal food stamp program distributed $242 million in benefits to Ohioans in July, according to the most recent data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Officials with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank said Thursday they expect the cuts in the food stamp program to result in an increased need for assistance at food pantries and soup kitchens across the area that already are stretching to meet the high need in wake of the slow economy.
“Pantries are already struggling to meet the need, and the Foodbank’s network is concerned there will not be enough food to go around, especially near the end of the month, which happens to be Thanksgiving,” Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, said in a news release.
Many families that receive food stamps also rely on groceries and support from food banks and other charities to scrape by, said Michelle Riley, CEO of the Foodbank Inc. in Dayton.
“When you talk about $193 million in direct benefits being cut from the economy, that’s a huge deal,” Riley told the Dayton Daily News. “You can’t balance the budget on the backs of poor people. That has a ripple effect.”