BY TAYLOR OWEN, IMPACT ANALYST
Office of Public Assistance, 111 N 31st St, Billings, Mt
On November 1st The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which supplies 42 million Americans with additional meal money took a 5% hit across the board. What does this mean for Yellowstone County and those whom the United Way of Yellowstone County supports? It turns out this cut will mean a lot. According to my research almost 80% of people served by United Way of Yellowstone County and its partners are eligible for SNAP. The USDA estimates that in Montana about 75% of those eligible for SNAP take advantage of it. This means that, conservatively, 60% of the individuals and families we work with will be losing critical meals. How many meals? The CBPP tells us that, “The cut is equivalent to about 16 meals a month for a family of three based on the cost of the U.S. Agriculture Department’s 'Thrifty Food Plan.” Before the cuts an estimated 90% of SNAP benefits are spent before the fourth week of any given month. Our community has always been there for the needy in that last week. But that period of hunger is now longer and meals will be scarcer.
SNAP has been beneficial for Montana and Yellowstone County since the start of the last recession. Both the state and county receive more money from the federal government in terms of aid than is paid out in taxes, and SNAP is part of the economic transfer from Washington that has helped the local economy. SNAP itself has a particularly high return on investment. For every dollar spent by a SNAP recipient, the USDA estimates that an extra seventeen cents of economic activity is created. This is because hungry workers work less efficiently, hungry children learn less and are more prone to delinquent behavior and food services industries suffer when the hungry cannot pay for food.
Nationally, the picture becomes even bleaker, Feeding America, a non-profit focusing on hunger issues, estimates that the cuts will result in the loss of almost two billion meals for the hungry in 2014. Now the burden on our non-profits will be even greater than ever and more families, children and the elderly will go hungry. What can you do? Get educated (link) and give to your local food distributors.