Another Challenge for Low-Income Mainers

Some of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens will face even more challenges this fall when the expanded food benefits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act expire.  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), called the Food Supplement Program in Maine, provides food for needy Mainers throughout the state.  The upcoming reduction to this program will affect every single SNAP recipient.  That’s 251,418 Mainers.  According to work by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) this cut eliminates $29 in benefits a month for an average family of three.  This leaves just $1.40 for each family member per meal.

Once the cuts take effect October 31st they will reduce the program by $5 billion.  This will take money from an already overstretched SNAP.  Ninety percent of SNAP’s benefits are claimed by the third week of the average month.  This reduction will take food directly away from hungry Americans.  Furthermore, contrary to many misconceptions, SNAP predominantly helps those who cannot work or are already supporting a family.  More than 3 out of 4 households receiving SNAP include a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person.  These households account for more than 80% of SNAP’s funding.

SNAP is also a form of economic stimulus.  The CBPP estimates that every dollar spent through SNAP prompts $1.70 in economic activity.  This money is predominantly spent locally since SNAP recipients are less likely to travel out of state.   Yet, congress has repeatedly attacked SNAP.  The House of Representatives recently rejected a $20 billion reduction in SNAP, which would have ended assistance for almost two million Americans.  Cuts like these are still possible and could create even more difficulties for hungry children and the elderly.

With Maine’s job-growth fairly stagnant in the wake of the Great Recession, many Mainers are simply out of options.  Nearly 1 in 4 children in Maine lack consistent access to food.  Now is not the time to turn our back on them or other Mainers in need.