In Illinois, about 16 percent of the population uses food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Starting this Friday, all 2,031,000 of them will have less money to spend on groceries. A family of three, for example, will lose $29 a month in benefits. Many social service providers expect more families will rely on already strained food banks.
The change could also have a broader economic impact on the state, $220 million fewer dollars will flow into Illinois through the program.
“There is a real risk that we may lose food retailers, particularly in areas of the state where there is a high usage of SNAP. So we are talking about making the food desert problem worse,” said Dan Lesser, Director of Economic Justice in the Chicago offices of the Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.
SNAP benefits were temporarily increased in 2009 as part of the Recovery Act. Because the money is immediately spent on food, some experts believe increasing SNAP is quick way to stimulate the economy. But the boost expires November 1st.
Those cuts may not be the last. Some conservative lawmakers say too many people are in the program and it’s too expensive. The U.S. House has proposed cutting SNAP by about $4 billion a year for 10 years, for a total of $40 billion dollars. The cuts come by drastically restricting eligibility for the program. A Senate bill proposes much more modest cuts. Negotiations begin this week.