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Food stamp cuts begin Friday

Food stamp cuts begin Friday

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Nearly 900,000 Wisconsinites — including 53,000 in Dane County — will see cuts to their food stamp benefits beginning Friday.

The cuts to FoodShare will total $89 million in Wisconsin between Friday and Sept. 30. Nationally, the total cut is estimated to be $5 billion during that same time period, the liberal think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said.

In Dane County, the cuts during that time will total about $5.6 million.

“For a large segment of Wisconsinites who are living paycheck to paycheck and still reeling from the recession, these cuts will be a harsh blow,” said Jon Peacock, spokesman for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. “And their cutbacks in spending will ripple through the Wisconsin economy.”

A household of three, for example, will see a monthly cut of $29, from $526 to $497, while a household of four will see a $36 monthly cut, from $668 to $632, the center said. A single person will see a cut of $11, from $200 to $189 a month.

In Wisconsin, food assistance benefits average about $1.30 per meal, according to Tamarine Cornelius, a research analyst with the council’s Wisconsin Budget Project. Many of those affected by the cuts will be young people, she said in a report released Wednesday, including about 452,000 children in Wisconsin who were enrolled in the program in 2012. That’s one out of three Wisconsin children.

The hardest hit areas will be Milwaukee County and rural northern counties — including Menominee, Adams, Sawyer, Burnett and Washburn — all places where a majority of children received food stamps at some point in 2012, the report said. Grocery stores also will be affected, because food assistance benefits are usually immediately spent on food at local stores, the report said.

Nationally, more than 47 million Americans — including 22 million children — who receive food assistance will see their benefits cut this fall, the budget and policy center said.

The cuts are happening because a temporary boost in benefits for all food stamp recipients, included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009, otherwise known as the federal stimulus law, expired Thursday.

An August report by the center said President Barack Obama and some members of Congress have proposed enacting legislation to address the situation, but noted that such action seems unlikely. And deeper cuts may be on the way as Congress debates the future of the Farm Bill.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said this week’s reductions in food assistance “shine a bright spotlight on the need to protect funding” for food stamps as lawmakers work to come to a resolution on the Farm Bill. And she voiced concern about cuts being pushed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

“I have strongly opposed the cuts made in the House bill that would impact children, seniors, and families across our state who are facing a constant struggle against hunger,” Baldwin said in an email.

And Rep. Mark Pocan, D- Madison, said Thursday that he had co-sponsored legislation to extend the temporary cuts for one year.

“While our economic growth remains tenuous, we cannot reduce support to our children, seniors and veterans who rely on these vital benefits,” Pocan said in a statement.

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