Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday August 14th, 2013, 2:26pm

Illinois SNAP Recipients To See Benefits Cut By $220 Million This Fall

Two million people in Illinois who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will see their food aid cut this fall when a temporary benefit increase as part of the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act ends.

Illinois SNAP recipients will see their collective benefits slash by $220 million once the temporary increase expires October 31, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates.

Starting in November, a family of three can expect to see a $29 reduction in monthly SNAP benefits. That's a $319 cut from this coming November through September 2014, the end of the federal fiscal year. Benefits will be reduced $11 for a single-person household, $20 for a two-person household and $36 for a family of four.

Overall, more than 47 million Americans who receive SNAP, including 22 million children, will be impacted by the across-the-board cuts, which will reduce the $80 billion-a-year SNAP program by $5 billion in the 2014 federal fiscal year alone. The average SNAP benefit for 2014 will provide less than $1.40 per person per meal.

“This small increase in SNAP benefits has helped hundreds of thousands of struggling families in Illinois stay afloat during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Gaylord Gieseke, president of Voices for Illinois Children, said in a statement. “For many of these families, this modest assistance is providing a lifeline to those who are struggling to find work, or are working at jobs that do not pay them enough to put food on the table.”

With the help of Voices for Illinois Children, Progress Illinois has learned more about the magnitude of SNAP cuts in various Illinois counties.

The more than 1 million people in Cook County estimated to be enrolled in SNAP during the 2014 federal fiscal year will see their collective benefits reduced by nearly $111 million from November 2013 through September 2014, Voices for Illinois Children has calculated. In DuPage County, about 69,000 people expected to be enrolled in the program will face benefit cuts of more than $7 million.

To the west in Knox County, the more than 9,000 people projected to be on SNAP will experience benefits reduced by more than $998,000.

In Sangamon County, nearly $4 million will be cut from the collective SNAP benefits of more than 34,000 people, while about 15,700 people on SNAP in Marion, Clinton and Fayette counties face a nearly $1.7 million drop in benefits.

Further south in the smaller Jefferson, Washington and Wayne counties, a combined 11,894 people expected to be enrolled in the program in the 2014 fiscal year will see their benefits reduced by a collective $1.3 million. In far south Pope and Hardin counties, $192,000 will be reduced from the SNAP benefits of nearly 1,800 people.

“SNAP has never experienced a reduction in benefits that impacts all participants, including 22 million children nationwide,” Gieseke added. “Given the fact that benefits are already inadequate for many families, these cuts will be particularly painful.”

As if the cuts weren’t deep enough, House Republican leaders are expected to consider a bill after the August recess that would reduce the SNAP program by $40 billion over ten years.

The House originally considered cutting $20 billion from the program over a ten-year period as part of the chamber’s original 2013 farm bill. But the House shot down the farm bill by a 234-195 vote on June 20. The chamber later passed a SNAP-less version of the farm bill on July 11.

House Republican leaders plans to take up SNAP in a separate bill, including the original $20 billion in proposed cuts on top of another $20 billon shaved from the program.

The new House plan would cut the SNAP program ten times more than the comparatively modest $4 billion reduction in the Senate’s farm bill, which was approved in early June.

The additional $20 billion SNAP reduction would mostly come from pushing up to 4 million people off the program. The measure would also shove childless adults aged 18 to 50 off SNAP if they are unable to find at least a part-time job after three months of receiving benefits.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' President Robert Greenstein called the House proposal a “sad development.”

“Something is seriously awry when the richest nation on Earth has higher levels of poverty and inequality than most other Western nations; when its tax code and spending programs are awash in unproductive or special-interest subsidies; and when, in spite of all that, policymakers would seriously consider a proposal that would increase hunger and deprivation among our least fortunate fellow citizens on a scale that we have not seen in years,” he wrote in a statement.

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