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Another day, another food stamps dilemma

According to NBC News:

The approximately 47 million Americans who rely on the modern food stamp program could see their monthly assistance cut this year because a recession-era benefits boost is set to expire.

People who receive food assistance — now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — got a raise starting in April 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The increase in benefits, which amounted to about $80 more a month for a family of four, was part of a massive effort to help mitigate the worst effects of the Great Recession.

The temporary boost is set to expire on Oct. 31. If Congress doesn’t pass legislation to extend it, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that a family of four could see their benefits cut by about $25 a month. Smaller households would see smaller cuts.

The maximum allotment for a family of four is currently $668, but benefits levels can vary greatly. The average monthly benefit in November was $135.72 per person, or $281.21 per household, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The cut would be less than the original increase because the new rates would be set based on current food prices, which have gone up in the past few years due to inflation. The exact rate change would be clear until this summer, when new benchmarks are set.

Nevertheless, experts say the effect could be quite significant for poor individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet. Most people who receive SNAP benefits are in dire financial circumstances. A report released earlier this year by the Carsey Institute, which does research on vulnerable families, found that the median annual household income for SNAP users was $18,014 in 2011, substantially lower than the nation’s median household income of $50,502 that year.

Experts say the program is one of the few places families and individuals can turn to for quick help meeting basic needs.




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