Food stamp reductions hit home

Recent cuts to food-stamp benefits could hurt not only the people who use them but also businesses.
This month, automatic cuts go into effect for the Supplemental Nutritional Food Program, commonly known as food stamps. Those cuts represent the end of increases put in place by the American Recovery and Reinvestment act of 2009 - the stimulus. Because of the cuts, and Congress's pending plans to decrease funding for SNAP in the long term, thousands of people in Barnwell County will have less money to spend on food for themselves and their families.
In September, over 7,300 Barnwell County residents - nearly 33 percent of the population - were using food stamps, according to the state Department of Social Services. For the country, it's more than 46 million people. Participation in SNAP has grown by 20 million people since 2007 - the economic crash of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed left millions of Americans out of work and in need of assistance.
Barnwell County households received $976,000 worth of food stamps in September. And that money is spent at local grocery stores and other places that accept food stamps.
The cuts took effect Nov. 1. Now the most a household of four will now receive is $632 a month - down from $668 - a 5.4 percent decrease, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It may seem like a small difference, but take 5 percent of $976,000 and you're looking at nearly $50,000 less going to county households and the businesses people shop at each month -- or almost $600,000 a year, a lot for a small county like Barnwell.
Of course, what really matters is the economy. If people can find good-paying jobs and get off welfare, the cuts to SNAP could be offset. But if the economy continues to stagger along - Barnwell's unemployment is around 13 percent - and more people enroll in SNAP the cuts could have a large impact.