The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided temporary extra funding, expired last Thursday, decreasing food share recipients’ benefits.
“The Food Share program is intended to supplement food purchasing abilities for low-income families,” said Mandy Mayek, the family and support services supervisor for the Portage County Health and Human Services Center.
Those who received public assistance benefits were given a temporary increase in 2009 due to an economic stimulus that was put in place to help people through the economic downturn.
The temporary legislation that boosted all benefits for people receiving food stamps ended on Oct. 31, and those families or individuals will see a reduction to their benefits implemented on Nov. 1.
“There are 3,000 cases in Portage County, meaning about 7,000 people will be affected,” Mayek said.
In Wisconsin there are about 861,000 recipients who will be impacted by the change. That results in about an $89 million cut in Wisconsin.
Since this is a federal change, millions more across the nation are insimilar situations.
“There will be an average decrease of about $9 per person per month,” Mayek said.
The size of the household determines the amount of money that will no longer be supplied by the program.
These cuts can be dramatic for families who rely on the benefits. An average cut of $9 for one person is about one meal for that individual.
There are policies related to student eligibility, and individuals enrolled part- or full-time in college must meet certain exceptions to be a part of the Food Share Program.
“A lot of students are ineligible, but there is a decent chunk of students who are. It is a common misconception that students cannot receive the benefits,” said Mayek.
Some of the exceptions for those students looking to get benefits include: a 20-hour or more workweek, enrollment in work-study, having a child under the age of six, or inability to work.
“I encourage people to apply if they need assistance. Error on the side of applying and the worst case scenario is that they would get denied,” said Mayek.
Regardless of the cuts, there will always be some financial assistance provided to recipients in need.