Food stamp recipients breathe sigh of relief -- Gazette.Net


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Food stamp recipients in Maryland will be spared from the cuts once proposed in the federal farm bill.

President Barack Obama signed the Agriculture Act of 2014 into law on Friday. The controversial law, formerly known as the farm bill, sets U.S. agricultural and food policy for the next five years.

“Marylanders won’t see additional cuts as a result of the passage of the farm bill,” Maryland Hunger Solutions spokeswoman Brooke A. McCauley said.

About 34,800 households in Montgomery County receive monthly food stamp benefits. Those households are already dealing with smaller budgets due to a cut late last year. At the end of November, food stamp recipients across the country saw a 5 percent decrease in their budgets when a federal expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, expired.

“There have been some families that have been affected significantly by that cut,” said JoAnn Barnes, deputy chief of the county’s Children, Youth and Family Services division.

Just a few months ago, food stamp advocates worried that a draft of the Agriculture Act would deal a second blow and cut as much as $39 billion from SNAP for needy households nationwide, but the bill that became law last week does not make those changes.

Households must meet certain income requirements to be eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A single household’s gross income must be 130 percent of the federal poverty level or lower.

According to Brian Schleter, spokesman for the state Department of Human Resources, the rules for eligibility for SNAP in Maryland will not change, but state funding could. The department could see a $750,000 decrease in funding for outreach.

“This could significantly reduce our ability to identify and enroll eligible families in needed services,” he said in an email.

The Capital Area Food Bank, which serves Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Washington counties; D.C. and northern Virginia, receives funding from the Maryland Department of Human Resources. For the calendar year 2014, the organization received $18,000 in outreach funding for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, which it matches. It is not yet clear if the state will reduce its funding for the food bank’s outreach next year.

scarignan@gazette.net