Lucy Nolan, executive director of the Hartford-based nonprofit End Hunger Connecticut!, says the roughly 403,000 state residents who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will see less money on their EBT cards starting Nov. 1.
The cut comes out to about $10 per person per month, or about 5.5 percent across the board for households of one, two, three, or four people. Nolan said Thursday that the funding cut is not related to sequestration, which is the across-the-board federal spending cut that Congress put in place in 2011 if it couldn’t agree to a budget deal. Rather, she said some of the money from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 is being moved over to cover the cost of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed in 2010.
Nolan said that the ARRA was originally passed in 2009 shortly after President Obama’s election and following the economic downturn in 2008. The ARRA included a 13 percent increase in funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and lengthened eligibility for unemployment benefits, among other things.
“If you look at our SNAP numbers, our food insecurity numbers went down in April after Obama’s election,” Nolan said. The added benefit came out to $24 a month for a one-person household, $44 for two, $63 for three, and $80 for four.
That increase in SNAP funding originally was scheduled to sunset in October 2014. However, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010 and was designed to add 6 cents more per meal to federally funded healthy meal programs in schools. That funding, Nolan said, came out of the ARRA and hastened the sunset of the 13-percent increase in SNAP funding to the end of October 2013. The money will then help provide healthy school breakfasts for children who qualify based on household income.
Nolan said the SNAP program has been proven to be a boon to local economies, with 91 percent of the benefits spent within the first week they are received. She also cited a Moody’s report that shows every SNAP dollar distributed creates another $1.78 within a given community.
“The money goes right into the communities that need it the most,” Nolan said, adding that although the cut won’t negatively impact school nutrition programs, it will mean a little more difficulty putting food on the dinner table at home.
“The families that are hungry are going to be hungrier,” Nolan said. “But the kids will be eating healthy at school.”
Specifically, SNAP’s per-month cut will be $11 for households of one, $20 for two, $29 for three, and $36 for four (see chart).
On Thursday, Nolan took part in a visit to JFK Elementary School in Windsor with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. Nearly 100 percent of JFK’s students take part in the school breakfast program.
Nolan said the in-classroom breakfast concept works well in lower income schools.
“That’s what we saw [Thursday],” Nolan said. “Kids got breakfast and brought it to class. They were reading while they were eating.”
In terms of the sequester and the government shutdown and the potential for spending cuts in nutrition programs, Nolan said that “up until a week ago, we had no idea whether there would even be SNAP benefits in November.” She said that everything except child nutrition is at risk because of the sequester.
The federal government provided about $697 million for SNAP in 2012 to feed an average of 403,466 individuals per month. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the state faces a $44 million cut in federal funding for SNAP.