The cuts are expected to affect more than 1.7 million Michigan residents.
LANSING, Mich. (Louise Knott Ahern, Lansing State Journal)--More than 1.7 million Michigan residents, including 70,000 veterans, will see cuts in their monthly food stamp benefits Friday as a provision of the 2009 federal stimulus package comes to an end.
Congress allocated additional money to the SNAP program in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to provide a greater safety net to people affected by the nation's recession that officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. In Michigan, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is administered through the Bridge Card.
The additional money always was meant to be temporary, with a built-in expiration of Nov. 1, 2013. Nationally, the cut equals about $5 billion over the next year.
Monthly benefits vary for each household, depending on income and other factors. The average monthly benefit for a four-person household is $489, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP benefits.
Friday's cut will be roughly $36 per month for a family of four, dropping their benefits to roughly $1.40 per meal.
That might not seem like much, said Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. But $36 can mean the difference between paying a utility bill or paying for three meals, she said.
"You can have two working parents in minimum-wage jobs who are still not earning enough to put food on their table who will qualify for food assistance," Jacobs said. "They are playing by the rules, doing everything people want them to do, but if you're only making $15,000 a year and you are losing $36 a month, that's a huge chunk out of your wages."
The Greater Lansing Food Bank is gearing up for an increase in demand for its services because of the cut, said Joe Wald, executive director.
The food bank distributes food to low-income people through a network of pantries and kitchens throughout the area. Wald expects to distribute more than 7 million pounds of food next year.
Wald said the recession's end has not been reflected in demand.
"Over the past year, we've seen no decline in the demand for the food we distribute," Wald said. "There are seven regional food banks throughout the state, and I'm hearing the same thing from every one. We are all talking about the growing need out there."
The number of Michigan residents on food assistance skyrocketed between 2003 and 2013.
In 2003, more than 370,000 households in Michigan received the benefits. That has jumped to more than 903,000 this year.
However, the number of individuals receiving assistance has dropped by 5,000 since August, down to 1,752,000.
In Ingham County, more than 50,000 people receive SNAP benefits - the highest in mid-Michigan. Clinton County has fewer than 6,000 recipients and Eaton County has less than 13,000.
The majority of recipients are senior citizens and children, Jacobs said. Nationally, one in four children lives in a SNAP household.
More cuts to food benefits are possible.
Congress is debating changes to the farm bill - a $500 billion piece of federal legislation that administers everything from farm subsidies to food stamps - that would cut $39 billion from food assistance over the next decade and remove 3 million people from the program.
The Senate's version of the bill would cut $4.5 billion in food assistance.