Individuals receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will notice a reduction in the amount of funding provided through the program starting this month.
Around 1.1 million people use SNAP benefits to purchase food throughout Washington, according to John Wiley, spokesperson for the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS.)
In September there were 826 cases of individuals and families using SNAP benefits in White Salmon, coming to $204,423 spent in local stores, or $247 per household, according to Wiley. Another 1,033 cases were recorded in Goldendale for September, coming to $253,000, or $245 allocated per household.
As of Nov. 1, those benefits were cut back due to the expiration of the American Recovery and Reinvest-ment Act of 2009, which expanded SNAP benefits by $5 billion per year.
“People don’t actually get food stamps anymore. They use something similar to a debit card and when that gets loaded automatically this month they’ll notice it was less than last month,” Wiley said.
The amount received each month is based on multiple factors, including income, living expenses, and the number of people in a household, according to the DSHS website. Recipients of food stamps were notified in October that their benefits would decrease in November.
How much that decline will be depends on household size. Accor-ding to data provided by the DSHS, the maximum monthly allowance for a family of three beginning this month will be $497, or $29 less than previously provided.
A family of five will receive $750 per month, a $43 reduction, and a family of eight will receive $1,137 per month, or a decrease of $65.
“The food stamp program is intended to be a supplemental program. It is not intended to feed families for an entire month, but to supplement what they have,” Wiley said.
Due to the reduction in SNAP benefits, Wiley said the DSHS is encouraging beneficiaries to seek out their community food banks.
In Klickitat County, there are food banks in Goldendale and Klickitat, along with one east of Bingen on State Route 14 and another through the White Salmon Seventh Day Adventist Church, according to Linda Schneider, administrator for Gorge Action Programs.
This year, Gorge Action Programs received a $10,571 grant from the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program. That money is divided among shelters and food pantries that apply throughout the county each year.
While every little bit is helpful, the amount benefitting Klickitat County has dropped each year.
“Probably five or six years ago we were getting $21,000 for our county and now it’s down to 10,” Schneider said. “I’m the administrator for those funds, but I’m not the one who makes the decision on where it goes and I’m glad I’m not the one to make that decision.”
With the dwindling amount of federal funding for food banks and shelters and the reduction in SNAP benefits, Schneider said she knows families in Klickitat County will feel an impact.
“It doesn’t seem like a lot, but people on this type of assistance have learned how to make those dollars stretch. It really does matter to them,” she said.