Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Food Stamp Recipients in City Worried as More Cuts Loom

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A new farm bill that has passed in the House of Representatives once again threatens to cut the national food stamp program known as SNAP, and SNAP recipients in the city affected by the cuts to the program in November say they can't take anymore. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

When NY1 first met Brenda Serrano in June, she told us that the $450 a month she was receiving in food stamps covered only three weeks' worth of groceries, barely enough to feed her family of six.

"Total, $510 a month to feed my family," she said.

Now, Serrano gets even less, just $390 a month since November. That's because the food stamp program, or SNAP, is part of a huge farm bill that's been held up in Washington. Congress approved a temporary extension of SNAP, but at a lower level.

At Part of the Solution, or POTS, a Bronx agency that runs an emergency food pantry and kitchen, almost everyone is feeling the pinch.

"I was receiving $200 a month, and the $200 put enough food in my house for the whole month," said Thomas Baumann, a SNAP recipient. "Now, since they cut me, I only get $189, and now, I don't get enough food."

Now, a bill making more cuts is headed towards the president's desk. These are aimed at people who qualify because they get subsidies for another program, like heat assistance. Advocates for food stamp recipients say that that will hit New Yorkers especially hard because so many of them fall into that category.

The bill does call for a $200 million increase in financing to food banks, but that may not offset the surge in demand that will come.

"That number is not going to make up the gap of the cuts that individuals are experiencing," said Christopher Bean, executive director of POTS. "It's a good thing, but taken together, it's not going to equate with, potentially, the loss of meals we're going to see."

Bean says that the pantry has already served 600 additional families since November, many of them hard-working, taxpaying New Yorkers who say they've come upon hard times and need SNAP to get back on their feet.

"I depend on the food stamp program," Baumann said. "If it wasn't for them, I'd be eating out of garbage cans."

It appears, though, that food stamp recipients won't get the relief they hope for and will have to brace themselves for another cut soon.

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