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Food Stamp Cuts Threaten to Leave Many San Antonians Hungry

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“This will have a devastating impact on Texas and the food bank network,” Celia Cole, chief executive officer of the Texas Food Bank Network, tells the Current. “It undercuts our ability to meet the needs of the people we serve and we’re simply not set up to make up for a cut of that magnitude. We are very concerned about the impact it’s going to have on struggling Texans who are still working their way toward recovery out of the recession.”

Largely led by Republican politicians and the conservative media, the push to minimize the nutrition assistance program rests on claims that the system is both flooded with lazy enrollees and rampant with abuse and fraud—arguments that commonly found statistics debunk.

“I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that people, and particularly the Republicans in Congress, are trying to misrepresent the program as being over-enrolled and too large and growing at too fast a rate, but really the program isn’t even reaching everybody that it’s supposed to already,” says Cole.

First, the program suffers from under-enrollment, anti-hunger advocates say. SNAP only reached two-thirds of those eligible in Texas, leaving $3 billion in aid behind for more than 2 million food-insecure Texans, according to the TFBN. In Bexar County, around 100,000 of the eligible food stamp recipients go without the program’s help. The SAFB estimates about $18 million in potential food stamp benefits go unused per month in the area. Secondly, less than 4 percent of benefits are issued in error and fraud rates are “within a historic low,” says Cole.

There are a number of reasons eligible participants don’t opt to take part in the program, says Cole—some aren’t aware of their eligibility, some have difficulty navigating the system or getting to the local benefits office and others simply don’t want the benefits.

Those eager to cut away at SNAP buy into a manufactured image of the average food stamp recipient as a slacker enjoying no-strings-attached benefits on the government’s dime—a stereotype that is far from reality. On average, a Texas SNAP recipient receives a paltry $122 a month for food.

Considering the price of food is expected to rise over the next two years, the low dollar amount must stretch even further. SNAP recipient families must meet poverty-level income qualifications—for a family of four that’s a net monthly income of $1,963.

“A lot of these people have to decide between rent and health care costs or food,” says Cooper.

As for lazy: More than 82 percent of Texas SNAP households had employment at some point in the last 12 months and 42 percent have some form of earned income, just not enough to live a food-secure life. Able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 must be working, actively applying for work or be taking part in employment training program to receive food stamps. Adults without children can take part in SNAP for only three months in a three-year period if they fail to obtain employment or participate in the training program.

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