BUFFALO, N.Y. — Earlier this week 2 On Your Side looked the concerns about the upcoming major reductions in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which many lower-income individuals and families depend upon to make ends meet at the grocery store.
Those benefits were boosted during the COVID pandemic, but now Washington is scaling back on emergency programs.
2 On Your Side spoke recently with a man from Niagara County who is now very worried about being able to put food on the table, and a local congressman who may play a role in the future of the program.
A 65-year-old veteran and retiree, John Stineman, prepares dinner for him and his wife. They are both Social Security disability recipients.
And Stineman contemplates a recent notice from Niagara County showing his new SNAP benefit as a supplement to buy food is now down to $23 a month starting in March.
That is potential bad news, which may be similar to the situation for many other low income SNAP recipients.
"To go from almost $500 a month to going down to $23 a month," Stineman said, "I know there's a lot of people out there that might have abused this program, like they do everything else. But there's a lot more people that needed this."
Again, SNAP benefits were boosted during the pandemic to help ease the economic hit for households. So while Stineman and his wife did earlier this year get some increase in their Social Security allotment, he says it's not enough.
So like many, he has turned to a food bank in Newfane for help.
"I go there once a month. They help us get some extra food because I just can't do it," he said.
Now Stineman has a plea to Washington officials as inflation caused food prices to soar.
"Congress needs to get involved, and go after this program, and extend it at least for another six months, until the inflation rate settles down," Stineman said.
Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Nick Langworthy of the 23rd District, in parts of Western New York, says he understands. But he also notes the expanded SNAP program was cut back in December by Congress and the White House as part of a bill and overall effort to ratchet down COVID-era spending in the trillions of dollars.
As a newly named member of the House Agriculture committee, Langworthy will help shape the new five-year farm bill, which is due by September. The National Association of Counties reports that this legislation currently provides $326 billion to SNAP as 75 percent of the Farm Bill funding.
An estimated 40 million people are recipients.
"I think in the farm bill, we will address food costs, but also make sure that the appropriate levels of SNAP benefits are in place," Langworthy said. "And I'm sure we'll be doing visits and field hearings as the year goes on.
"It's something that I am gravely concerned about: the impact on seniors and people that have grown accustomed to these programs."