PA SNAP Cuts Avoided

By Kevin Flanigan

Published 03/06 2014 05:38PM

Updated 03/06 2014 05:53PM

ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY - With huge cuts  called for  in the federal food stamp program,  the Corbett  Administration  has changed direction to protect the program in this State.
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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