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Congress Cuts Food Assistance Benefits

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BOZEMAN -

More than 130,000 Montanans experienced a cut on Friday in their food assistance benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program also known as SNAP after a temporary boost in the program expired.

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law by President Obama to provide economic stimulus in response to the recession.

While the stimulus was mostly meant to save and create jobs, the act also increased food assistance programs like SNAP by 13.6%. On Friday, those extra stimulus dollars expired.

"This cut means that Montana will lose $13-million over the next fiscal year in SNAP benefits. This cut not only hurt the families that need SNAP to help put food on their table, but it hurts small businesses, grocery stores and farmers," said Jackie Semmens, Policy Analyst at the Montana Budget and Policy Center.

For a household of three, the early reduction will mean a loss of $29 in benefits per month.
Semmens said SNAP is one of the most effective ways for low-income families to put food on the table and stimulate the economy.

"For every dollar that's spent in SNAP benefits, it generates a $1.70 in economic activity," said Semmens.

Livingston resident, Sharon Wilde started using food stamps after a stroke left her with a physical and cognitive disability. But, after her income increased slightly the state took away her SNAP benefits.

"You're afraid all the time that you're not going to be able to make it through the month,"
 said Wilde.

Wilde is one of the nearly 4,000 people per month that uses the Gallatin Valley Food Bank.

"Without the food stamps, I have to take advantage of the food bank otherwise I wouldn't be able to make it," said Wilde.

"It will be our job to stretch those food resources that we do have and to continue to provide to the needs of the community," said Tim Trzinski, Gallatin Valley Food Bank Director.

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