WASHINGTON – New York is moving to stop a new federal agricultural and nutrition law from cutting food assistance to 300,000 families around the state.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the state will use $6 million in federal money provided through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to prevent the cuts.
New York had 1.7 million families — or 3.16 million people — receiving benefits in December from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The 300,000 families facing a reduction in SNAP assistance would have seen their benefits cut an average $127 a month.
The federal Agricultural Act of 2014 will save an estimated $8.6 billion in SNAP spending over 10 years by changing the "heat and eat'' program that allows families receiving LIHEAP money to also receive enhanced food assistance.
The 300,000 New York families receive that enhanced benefit because they get a token $1 annual LIHEAP payment, often because they live in apartments where heating is part of their monthly rent.
LIHEAP is targeted toward the elderly, families with very young children and the disabled.
The new five-year farm law cuts off the enhanced food assistance for families receiving less than $20 a year in LIHEAP aid.
The $6 million Cuomo set aside Tuesday will be used to increase LIHEAP benefits for the 300,000 families so they will continue to qualify for enhanced SNAP assistance.
New York is one of 17 states participating in the heat-and-eat program.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who unsuccessfully fought the SNAP cuts on the Senate floor, praised the governor Tuesday for "a heroic step to stave off hunger in New York.''
Gillibrand's office said Tuesday it's doubtful other states will be able to take similar short-term steps to avoid the SNAP cuts.