Some Great News For Basic Food Recipients. . .. Finally!
During the recession, people who utilize Basic Food were given an increase in their monthly benefit under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). This increase gave low-income families more money to buy food during the difficult economic times, and in-turn also helped stimulate local economies. But as of November 1, 2013, this increased benefit was cut back. The average benefit level dropped to less than $1.40 per person per meal. Downward spiral number one.
Only a couple of months after that, Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill. As shared in an earlier blog post, the Farm Bill included another cut to the federal funding stream for Basic Food, called SNAP. This cut came from raising the amount for ‘Heat and Eat’ eligibility determination from $1 in LIHEAP assistance to $20. This was estimated to result in 232,000 Washington households experiencing another reduction in benefits of up to $90 per month. Downward spiral number two.
And then, the legislature did not include any additional dollars in their supplemental budget for the State Food Assistance Program, which provides Basic Food benefits to immigrant families who have been here less than five years and are therefore not eligible for benefits funded by the federal SNAP program. This means that these families are still only receiving 75 percent of the benefits provided to other Basic Food beneficiaries. Downward spiral number three.
With all of these reduced benefits, you would think there wasn’t a problem with hunger anymore! But food insecurity remains a very real issue in our state and in our country. One in four children in Washington are struggling with hunger and almost 15% of Washington households are considered food insecure. This is not the time to go on a downward spiral that takes more food off the tables of these vulnerable children and families.
But yesterday, we finally took a step back in the right direction that fixes one of these downward spirals. Governor Jay Inslee announced that Washington will take steps to preserve the SNAP benefits that were cut in the 2014 Farm Bill (as mentioned above). As explained in Governor Inslee’s press release:
A household’s SNAP benefits are calculated by factoring in a household’s eligibility for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The new Farm Bill made changes to the “Heat and Eat” option, which now requires states to provide a household $20 in LIHEAP assistance to maximize SNAP benefits. The prior law required that Washington only provide $1. Under the modified program, the Department of Social and Health Services will work with the Department of Commerce to provide $20 of LIHEAP assistance to eligible households, ensuring low-income families will remain eligible for up to $90 a month of SNAP benefits.
This will preserve benefits for approximately 200,000 households in Washington and will prevent the loss of nearly $70 million in federal SNAP benefits. Washington is joining seven other states who have taken similar steps. Preserving this benefit means fewer families will have to face the impossible choices of putting food on the table or buying medicine or paying rent.
Thank you, Governor Inslee, for helping protect vulnerable families in Washington!