SNAP cuts pass House, leaving AZ families worried about future of food stamps
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Sep. 19, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Is it a vital resource or a government safety net ready and waiting to be taken advantage of?
The debate rages on in Washington over reigning in federal food stamps, and, as we saw firsthand, it's a battle that could have big repercussions here in Arizona.
Stephanie Christensen knows what her family wants.
"The kids have fruits and vegetables that they'd really rather have," she said.
More importantly, as she passes on junk and loads up on bread, milk and produce, Christensen knows what they need.
Most importantly, she knows what they can afford.
"It's based on what's on sale," she said.
And with $600 in federal SNAP benefits per month to feed a family of five, sales rule all.
The Catalina family has been on the SNAP program for two years.
Since David, who has an MBA, was laid off a good job in human resources.
"It's a kick in the pride for sure," he said. It's not easy, especially with the stigma that comes with it."
Analysts say that stigma is the feeding the fight in Washington.
House republicans today passed a bill to cut $39 million from the program over the next ten years.
Opponents call the move 'heartless'.
"They somehow feel like heroes when they vote to cut food stamps," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California).
Those behind the measure argue the cuts simply close loopholes that allow people to take advantage, such as one that lets single, childless adults stay on the program longer if they live in high unemployment areas.
"It seems to serve a valid purpose," said John Bowen of the state's Division of Benefits and Eligibility.
Here in Arizona, close half a million households, including the Christensens, use SNAP.
Officials say the repercussions will be far reaching.
"There are areas in which jobs are very scarce,"said Bowen.
But he admits the system is far from perfect.
It's a point that gives little comfort to the Christensens, who worry what these possible 'improvments' will mean for them the next time they go to check out.
Area Congressman Raul Grijalva and Ron Barber, both democrats, released statements Thursday condemning the SNAP cuts.
Barber called it 'unconscionable.'
TE measure now moves onto the Senate.