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Food stamp cuts affect 1 in 7 Americans

November 1, 2013
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Source: UPI

U.S. food stamp cuts taking effect Friday are one of two stimulus safety-net programs ending, an economist said. The other is extended unemployment benefits.

The so-called food stamp cliff, affecting nearly 48 million people, or 1 in 7 Americans, "may be more of a sidewalk curb," JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief U.S. Economist Michael Feroli told The New York Times in an email.

"The bigger cliff, which I'm surprised people aren't talking about, is emergency unemployment benefits Jan. 1," he said.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, financed by the federal government for states that met certain unemployment and state benefit thresholds, was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 -- commonly referred to as the Recovery Act, or the stimulus.

It was a temporary increase in the maximum amount of food stamp benefits people could get monthly as part of Washington's response to the Great Recession.

The EUC program extended unemployment benefits to jobless workers beyond the normal maximum of 26 weeks up to 99 weeks at first and later to 73 weeks.

The maximum returns to 26 weeks Jan. 1.

Friday's change in the food stamp program, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, cuts monthly benefits 13.6 percent -- or, more precisely, ends a 13.6 percent increase in SNAP benefits from the stimulus act.

Benefits to a family of four receiving the maximum amount drop Friday to $632 from $668, the U.S. Agriculture Department says.

The maximum benefits for a single adult fall to $189 from $200.

The cuts leave recipients with an estimated average $1.40 to spend on each meal, the department says, citing its Thrifty Food Plan.

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