Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps as many know it, will experience a drop in benefits as the boost provided as a result of the 2009 stimulus bill expires. Clearly, this comes as good news to the many Americans who believe that the food assistance program has grown out of control, allowing many low-income Americans to ‘scam’ the taxpayers by using our tax dollars to feed their children at government expense.
One wonders, however, if the millions of Americans who are so pleased to see food stamp benefits lowered – with more cuts likely to come – understand the impact this will have on a segment of society that one would be loath to call ‘freeloaders’ seeking to live on the largess of their country? That would be the 900,000 veterans who offered up their lives for their country only to return home to find employment exceedingly difficult to come by, creating the need for food stamps to provide for their families. As the boost to the program under the 2009 American Recovery Act sunsets, many of those who served this nation in uniform, but are facing tough economic times, will find it that much harder to feed their families.
When VoteVets.org asked our veterans if they have ever used food stamps, and to urge Congress to maintain the program, over 600 of them wrote back within 24 hours. All of them who are still on the program are now going to face tougher times.
“Nationwide, in any given month, a total of 900,000 veterans lived in households that relied on SNAP to provide food for their families in 2011,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities writes. The number varies state to state, with over 100,000 veterans in households that rely on the benefits in Florida and Texas each.
The coming cut will range from $36 a month for a family of four to $11 a month for a single person. Food stamps will average less than $1.40 per person per meal next year with the cut. Benefits were already sparse, at just $133 a month on average.
Veterans can face a lot of challenges finding work when they return from service. While overall the unemployment rate for veterans is 6.5 percent, those who have served since 2001 to the present have an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent. Nearly one in ten veterans with disabilities were without employment in 2010. They are also disproportionately likely to live in poverty and to be homeless. In 2010, nearly a million veterans ages 18 to 64 had experienced poverty over the past year. As of 2011, nearly one in seven homeless adults was a veteran and more than four in ten homeless veterans were without shelter. They are therefore heavily impacted by cuts to the social safety net.
The automatic reduction in food stamps won’t likely be the last cut however. House and Senate lawmakers are set to negotiate this week over a bill to continue funding the program, and House Republicans want to cut it by $40 billion, while Senate Democrats have proposed cutting it by $4 billion. Either option is unacceptable, but if $40 billion were cut, as many as 6 million people could be dropped from SNAP.
It seems that Politicians in Washington, D.C. are looking to make cuts in the nation’s budget in the wrong places. For example, just this year, Lockheed Martin received a $6.9 billion contract for “modernization” of the F-22 – a fighter jet that the Pentagon has said it doesn’t want, but keeps getting money to buy. This, on top of $7.4 billion contract just a couple of years ago for similar “system upgrades” to the F-22. Over $14 billion in just a couple of years to “modernize” and “upgrade” a jet fighter that just rolled off the assembly lines 8 years ago.
One jet fighter program that the Pentagon is ready to end could erase the SNAP program cuts for a few years. While the funding going to the F-22 may not be the answer, there are plenty more programs whose value is questionable, which could save a ton of desperately needed programs that are being cut in the name of sequestration and austerity.