Millions of Americans who rely on food stamps to feed their families will see their benefits decrease Friday, and that could just be the start of more cuts yet to come.
Food stamp benefits recently increased in October with the annual cost of living adjustment, but in 2009 when the economic stimulus was introduced during the recession, food stamp benefits were increased.
That's set to expire Friday.
Lisa Otis is a single mother of two who depends on food stamps to make ends meet and feed her children. After losing her job, she said she started getting around $450 a month through SNAP.
"What's going to happen?" she said. "Do I have to tell my 13-year-old to hold off making peanut butter and jelly? We've got to make that loaf of bread last. You don't want to tell kids that."
Overall, food stamp benefits to 47 million Americans with nearly 225,000 in Connecticut are getting cut by $5 billion. That's one in seven Americans receiving food stamps, who will have to tighten their belts.
For a family of three like Otis', that shakes out to $29. Others could see drops of $11 up to $36 a month for a family of four.
And these cuts could be just the start. Republican lawmakers said the program is too expensive. The cost has more than doubled since 2008, costing the country almost $80 billion a year. The large increase of spending has turned the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a target by the House of Representatives in an attempt to curb the spending.
Negotiations on a farm bill which includes cuts to the SNAP program started earlier this week. The Associated Press reported that farm bills based by both the House and Senate would cut food stamps.
Those reductions started Friday.
The legislation passed by the GOP-controlled House would cut the food stamp program by an additional $4 billion a year and would also tighten eligibility requirements for people looking to apply for aid.
In addition, the bill would also put an end to government waivers that allowed adults without dependents to receive food stamps indefinitely. States would also be allowed to put new work requirements in place.
Another person being affected by the reductions is Pamela Longo, 26, who receives about $400 in Food Stamps each month. However, she is pregnant with three children and unemployed.
"Struggling now but I worry what's its going to be like when the triplets are here," Longo said.
Longo said she will have to rely on the allowance along with occasional trips to local food pantries.
"At the end of the month when it's not enough I do what I can," Longo said. "Unfortunately I can't physically (go to the food pantry) so I get any family member or friend that can go for me and pick it up just so my kids have enough to eat at the end of the month."
Longo gets help from the Catholic Charities, which is a food pantry in Norwich. The pantry was stocked in anticipation of the federal cuts and Program Manager Sylvia Laudette said she receives four to five calls at the end of the month.
"We had 11 calls yesterday for Food Assistance," Laudette said. "That's to get them through until their food stamps come out on the third or the fourth of the month. This is without the cut."
Longo said she figures they spend $1.40- $1.50 per person on each meal and stretching that further with three more little mouths will be a new challenge.
"I will make it work," Longo said. "I will make it last."
Longo said they'll utilize the food pantries to supplement. Eyewitness News talked to the Connecticut Food Bank Friday and officials there said they're already seeing the increase for requests.
If you want to learn more about what Catholic Charities is doing, click here.
Copyright 2013 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.
Friday, July 18 2014 3:26 PM EDT2014-07-18 19:26:33 GMT
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