Daines defends cuts to SNAP benefits, MT food banks worry

Sep 24, 2013

A bill to cut the federal food stamp program, now called SNAP, by $4 billion annually for the next decade is heading over to the U.S. Senate.

The Republican-led U.S. House passed the SNAP cuts last week, over opposition from Democrats.

The proposed cuts could seriously impact local food banks in Montana. Executive Director of the Great Falls Community Food Bank David Abbott said currently about 10,000 people in Cascade County do not know where their next meal is coming from.

He predicts the number of people who look to use the Food Bank and the amount of food he will need donated from the community will double if the federal cuts to SNAP go through.

"We do a pretty decent job of getting food out but obviously, that's going to be a major strain on what we do. It's going to be a real challenge," he said.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services facilitates SNAP in the state. DPHHS says Montana receives $190 million in SNAP benefits per year. Those who receive the benefits include 55,000 children and 9,000 seniors.

Montana’s Congressman, Steve Daines joined House Republicans in voting for the cuts to SNAP. Daines said yes, SNAP is important, but the program has grown 150 percent in the last seven years. He said the SNAP bill passed by House Republicans shaves off five percent from that 150 percent increase.

“It’s not that we’re going to have the truly needy here having their benefit cut,” Daines said. “We’re going to see the ability to save some dollars here because there were some people out there who were gaming the system and there’s fraud in the system today.”

Great Falls Community Food Bank Executive Director David Abbott said SNAP has been growing at such a rate because people are still having a hard time making a living in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates almost 4 million people would lose SNAP benefits next year under the proposed cuts. NPR reports the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow said the bill will never see the light of day in the Senate.