Associations concerned over SNAP reductions - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Associations concerned over SNAP reductions

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Some local West Virginia associations are assisting in getting the word out about an automatic cut that will affect some 350,000 residents in the Mountain State.

While the cut will affect 350,000 West Virginians, it will affect some 47 million people in the United States.

Beginning Nov. 1, recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, saw their benefits decrease due to the termination of the 2009 Recovery Act's temporary boost.

Getting the word out

"This is a big deal," said Jan Vineyard, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, with people left wondering if they will have to do without. 

For members of the association, Vineyard sent a bulletin outlining the amount of dollars cut based on household size.

Bridget Lambert, president of West Virginia Retailers Association, said the projected amount of reduction to consumers is $36 million through October 2014.

"The 350,000 West Virginia consumers shopping in our stores from low-income households will be impacted at a rate of $29 per household for a family of three," Lambert said. "A particularly concerning reality when you consider the increase in household expenses since 2009. 

"When the Recovery Act's benefit expires, SNAP recipients will average less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014."

Impact on business owners

Jim Oppe, president of TWJ Inc. and owner of Plum Street Foodland store in Parkersburg, said SNAP purchase comprise 40 percent of the store's sales. 

"Take 5 percent and it turns out to be about $10,000 a month," he said.

In regards to how SNAP recipients will likely shop in the future with reduced benefits, Oppe said they will more than likely buy less during their trips to the grocery store. 

When it comes to Plum Street's overall business, Oppe said it's probably too early to tell what the effect of reduced SNAP benefits will be.

"(People) will trade down some," he said. "May change their market basket. They may have to be a little more thrifty."

At the moment, Oppe said he doesn't anticipate having to make any major business changes because of the reduced benefits.

His additional local Foodland stores don't do as much with the SNAP program, Oppe said.

Looking at numbers

According to the Washington Post, SNAP currently costs about $80 billion per year. The bill that temporarily expanded the food stamp program spent $45.2 billion to increase monthly  benefit levels to around $133. Benefits will shrink by about 5 percent on average. 

Additionally, the end of the stimulus program will reduce federal food stamp spending by $5 billion in 2014.

Monthly cuts in SNAP benefits by household are as follows: The maximum benefit for a family of four will drop from $668 per month to $632. For a household size of three, benefits will drop from $526 to $497 and for a household of two, the numbers go from $367 to $ 347. An individual will see a decrease from $200 to $189. 

It will take time to assess the exact effects of reduced SNAP benefits will be in regard to both the 350,000 West Virginians who participate in the program and the businesses who participate indirectly through the services they offer.