Beginning November 1, “food stamp” benefits will decrease country-wide when part of the federal government’s 2009 stimulus package reaches its scheduled end. These across-the-board cuts for what’s known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) will slash food assistance for nearly 47 million Americans. Even bigger reductions may occur after the House reconvenes this September. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that House Republicans plan to move a bill that doubles proposed SNAP cuts and tightens requirements.
In a statement, Congressmember Lois Capps said, “Already Congress has shown that a bipartisan measure is needed to reauthorize the program. However, House leadership seems interested in pushing even more extreme cuts to the program this fall — cuts that would reduce benefits for up to 300,000 California households and kick nearly 280,000 Californians out of the program altogether.”
Food stamp utilization by Californians has gone up significantly since the recession hit several years ago, but only about half of the eligible people in the state receive benefits from the entitlement program. The same is true for Santa Barbara County. There are currently 30,000 individuals on food stamps, but 60,000 people qualify. Santa Barbara ranks 51 out of the state’s 58 counties for utilization relative to number of low-income individuals, according to a 2013 report by California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA).
Despite the low ranking, participation at the county level has also increased 10-15 percent annually since 2009. Today, there are twice the food stamp participants in Santa Barbara than there were in 2008. CFPA estimates that if CalFresh — California’s SNAP program — were to reach all eligible individuals in the county, area residents would receive $52.2 million in additional benefits, generating $93.4 million in additional economic activity. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to keep SNAP strong,” Capps said.