Bills seek extension of enhanced SNAP benefits

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON — Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania on Oct. 31 introduced the Extend Not Cut SNAP Benefits Act (S.1635) that would amend the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to extend the period during which Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits were temporarily increased. SNAP benefits were raised in the wake of the 2008-09 recession during which millions of Americans lost their jobs and the prospects for securing new employment were dim. But the increased benefits expired on Nov. 1, resulting in an estimated $11 billion reduction in SNAP spending ($5 billion in fiscal 2014 and a total of $11 billion over three years).

A companion bill (H.R. 3353) was introduced on Oct. 28 in the House of Representatives by Representative John Conyers of Michigan.

The bills would extend the enhanced SNAP benefits for one year, and the extension would be retroactive so those who lost benefits or saw them reduced on Nov. 1 would see them restored and would be compensated for benefits lost during the interim.

“The SNAP program plays a critical role in the battle against hunger for children, seniors and families across Pennsylvania and throughout our nation,” Mr. Casey said. “The expiration of increased SNAP benefits at this time will also have a negative impact on Pennsylvania’s economy. For every dollar invested in this program, it is estimated that the economy gets $1.75 in return. The program fuels consumer spending while providing much needed nutrition for 1.7 million Pennsylvanians.”

Mr. Conyers said on Nov. 1, “Beginning today, SNAP will be drastically reduced by $5 billion for fiscal year 2014 as the temporary boost provided by the Recovery Act of 2009 expires. This reduction will hit millions of our least fortunate friends, family members and neighbors, including 1,775,000 SNAP recipients in Michigan alone. At a time when millions of Americans are still struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession, this reduction is both callous and counterproductive.”

SNAP benefits normally are indexed for food price inflation at the beginning of each fiscal year. The 2009 economic stimulus provided an across-the-board SNAP benefit increase effective April 2009. Maximum monthly benefits were raised 13.6%. For a one-person household, the added benefit was $24 a month; for two persons, $44 a month; for three persons, $63 a month; for four persons, $80 a month; and for larger households, higher amounts.

Mr. Casey noted without AARA’s boost, SNAP benefits will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.

Mr. Casey’s bill was co-sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Mr. Conyers’ bill, which has 46 cosponsors, was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture.
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