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Food-stamp recipients in Pennsylvania begin getting cuts


DECEMBER 2013, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Edition of The Union News

Food-stamp recipients in Pennsylvania begin getting cuts


REGION, December 2nd- Recipients in Pennsylvania of food-stamps have begun receiving notices of how much their benefits will be slashed because of cuts made to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by the Republican controlled United States House of Representatives in Washington, DC.

The Republican’s agenda included cutting taxes for what they call the “job creators” but 48 million Americans, and around 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, took a cut in federal food-stamp benefit beginning November 1st.

Enrollment in the food-stamp program surged since more Americans have qualified for the benefits because of the recession and the pro-business political agenda which has seen workers wages not keep up with inflation due to economic policies that included the elimination of union represented workers.

The federal goverment stimulus program increased the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in 2009, however, the temporary increase expired on November 1st, dropping the amount allotment by around 5.4 percent.

SNAP benefits were increased under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRAct) of 2009, which was a federal stimulus package passed in response to the 2007- 2009 recession.

The program is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is administered by Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare.

According to Department of Agriculture, the cuts will result in taking a estimated $16 billion out of grocery spending over the next three years.

With Democratic party opposition the Republican controlled Congress passed a bill in September curtailing spending on the federal food-stamp program by 5 percent, or approximately $40 billion over the next decade. The Democratic controlled United States Senate passed legislation calling for a cut of about $4 billion.

In the budget battle in Washington, Senate Democrats wanted to reduce federal food-stamp spending by $4.5 billion over 10 years, however, Republicans want to cut $40 billion.

According to Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of food-stamp benefits go to families living below the poverty line, and almost two-thirds of the program recipients are children, the elderly or the disabled.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress appear ready to implement even more cuts in the food-stamp program as lawmakers have resumed talks over a new farm bill, which the federal food-stamp program is funded. The farm bill also provides subsidies not for just farmers but to 50 billionaires to not grow crops on their land throughout the nation including states that have very little farms and land good for farming.

Republicans often attempt to cast the reason for the food-stampt cuts on wanting to slash fraud within the program. However, in Pennsylvania according to data released by the Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General, program fraud is a fifth of the United States average.

The office, which investigates fraud in the food stamp program and public programs, through the Department of Public Welfare, showed from 2010 to 2012 the annual average food stamp violation was $1.9 million, a fraction of the nation’s 1.3 percent fraud rate. Total state food stamp benefits during 2010 to 2012 averaged approximately $2.57 billion each year.

According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, which provides the funding for the food stamp program, the fraud amount throughout the nation averaged around $858 million each year.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania denied applications of more than 111,200 households between August 2011 and February 2013 because the applicants failed to submit the proper paperwork.

Republicans in Washington have also pushed as part of the farm bill, on making qualifications tougher.