Harrisburg has come up with a way to keep the federal dollars flowing into Pennsylvania.
The federal changes to the supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP, mandated by the new farm bill were estimated to mean a three billion dollar cut in Pennsylvania benefits over the next ten years. But now state officials have come up with a way to avoid those cuts by shifting state aid to an energy assistance program.
When the federal food stamp cuts were announced about a month ago, plenty of people visiting the Saint Vincent DePaul Food Bank in Altoona said they were already having a difficult time making ends meet.
"Its already tight. What more do they want? I don't understand where they are coming from cause all they are doing is making people suffer. You know not like suffer as far as pain, but in their minds and in their stomachs."
At the time, state officials estimated the food stamp cuts in Pennsylvania would hit 400,000 households who would see their monthly food support benefits cut on average by $60 to $65.
But now the Corbett Administration has proposed shifting eight million dollars in federal block grant funding into the low income home energy assistance program.
Under what is being called the "heat and eat" effort, the federal food stamp benefits will be preserved for the low income families that currently qualify for them. That's a big deal for those already trying to feed the hungry.
"Most important thing we are concerned about is the kids. There should be a law that kids should not and cannot go to bed at night with being hungry."
This change will eliminates the estimated $300 million dollars in annual food stamp cuts because the federal government gives more in food stamp benefits to people who qualify for a state administered heating assistance program. For people who depend on the support they currently receive, avoiding any future cuts is a big deal.
"People out there trying to work, or whatever you are trying to do, feed a family, we need it. We need everything we can get back."
Governor Corbett is the first republican governor to call for the funding changes to avoid the food stamp cuts. While some are criticizing the move as part of reelection politics, some food bank supporters say they are just glad this change is being made.
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